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Before Super League

Sincere thanks to David Gronow for permission to publish the following article and photographs.

A ‘step forward’ seemed to be the theme in August 1994.

After sharing the old Leeds Road ground with neighbours Huddersfield Town, the Fartowners moved to a new state of the art McAlpine Stadium, however, at the time, many supporters and spectators alike felt the move would be turning their back on tradition, although it is suspected even the ‘greats of Fartown’ would have relished the chance to have played in such a magnificent arena.

There was no better scenario than kicking off the 1995 Centenary season in the First Division on a new ground.

The club needed a sound financial business strategy and the stadium provided the foundation for that.

In 1996, the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season.

As the sport in Britain entered a new era it would be two years before Huddersfield rose again to the top level of the game.

In 1996, Ken Davy took over as chairman of Huddersfield and "Giants" was added to the team name.

The Huddersfield club was accused of joining Super League by the back door due to the demise of Paris St Germaine, but there was more to it than that.

Not taking anything away from Hull, who lost only one game throughout the season, the Giants were the only team to come anywhere near them and were nine points clear of Keighley Cougars in third place.

Team rebuilding during the close season between 1996 and 1997 showed that the club was to make an assault for a Super League place in 1998.

Out of the 33 registered players in the 1996 campaign, 18 left the Giants and were replaced in time for the new season by 15 new faces from a variety of different clubs.

Among the arrivals was Ali Davys, Matt Sturm and Craig Weston to the overseas contingent, plus Neil Harmon along with Nick Fozzard from Leeds Rhinos.

Paul Dixon came back home to lend his vast experience in what was to be his last season, and one of the best signings made by the club, Danny Russell, was enticed from Carlisle.

Already playing in the Claret and Gold was former international Garry Schofield and the superb Phil Veivers, plus match-winners Dean Hanger and Steve Booth.

Paul Cook joined the Giants from Bradford Bulls and his magnificent contribution of 162 points in 15 games was a vital factor in the team’s success.

There was a blip in mid-season when two consecutive defeats against Keighley and Swinton caused concern, but then came a remarkable run.

In their final 18 league games the Giants suffered only one defeat and qualified easily for the Divisional Final at Old Trafford on 28 September 1997.

Hull Sharks, of course, were their opponents, and after the disappoints of the previous meetings during the season, this time it was to be much different.

Although without an injured Garry Schofield, Phil Veivers and Craig Weston, who took the Man of the Match, and the guile of Ali Davys, plus an all-round effort from the whole squad, the Sharks were nilled.

The Giants scored an unanswered 18 points with tries from Davys, James Bunyan and Andy Cheetham, Paul Cook kicking three goals.
It had been a great season, and the inclusion into Super League was an added bonus - 1997 being one of the important periods in Huddersfield’s history.

1st Match - McAlpine Stadium

Huddersfield play their first-ever game at the McAlpine Stadium thrashing the visitors Barrow 50-12 before a crowd of 4,300.
Flying winger Brimah Kebbie (5) touches down for a try.

Danny Russell

Hooker Danny Russell - a top signing by Huddersfield

Huddersfield 1997
Huddersfield Giants Divisional Premiership Final-Winning Squad of 1997.

Back Row (left to right): Joe Berry, Paul Dixon, Nick Fozzard, Dave King, Andy Cheetham, James Bunyan, Matt Sturm
Middle: Basil Richards, Tony Bowes, Paul Cook, Steve Ferres (coach), Phil Veivers, Craig Weston, Steve Booth
Front: Ali Davys, Danny Russell, Neil Harmon, Dean Hanger

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