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History of Huddersfield Giants RLFC

Early Years

The earliest record of a football match being played in the Huddersfield area is in 1848, when a team of men from Hepworth took on a team of men from Holmfirth near Whinney Bank in Holmfirth. Hepworth won a close fought game which "exhibited the usual amount of confusions, bloody noses, etc" and took the prize of £5 which had been jointly donated by each side.

There appears to have been no formal structure to sport in the Huddersfield area until the opening of the Apollo Gymnasium on August 3, 1850. At this time the gymnasium was the only venue in the town where young men could take part in physical activities, it offered the opportunity to participate in fencing, swimming, bowling, cricket and many other sports.

In 1864 the Apollo Gymnasium was turned into the Gymnasium Theatre. The athletes of the gymnasium responded by forming a more organised athletics association. In an advertisement headed "Huddersfield Athletic Club" they invited "gentlemen desirous of becoming members" to a public meeting at 8 o'clock on the evening of November 16, 1864 at the Queen Hotel. The meeting went ahead, a hundred names were registered and a committee was formed. Within a month a new gymnasium was in service in a basement on Back John William Street.

On January 27, 1866 twenty members of the Huddersfield Athletic Club agreed to play a football match against twenty of the Huddersfield Rifle Corps at Rifle Field in Trinity Street. Although the result was a scoreless draw, a large crowd was attracted. In light of this the Huddersfield Athletic Club agreed to start a football section which was to start at the beginning of December 1866. Initially the Huddersfield Athletic Club made no contribution to the support of the football club and each paying member was forced to pay a subscription of 2s 6d. As the football club grew, it became a useful recruiting tool for the Huddersfield Athletic Club. In 1869 six matches were played and by 1870 three of the club's players had been selected to represent Yorkshire. By 1872 there were so many players that a second team was formed.

The growth in popularity of the club and the need for better facilities led to the Huddersfield Athletic Club approaching St John's Cricket Club with a proposal to merge the two clubs. St John's Cricket Club had been formed in 1866 at Hillhouse and had moved to Fartown ground. By 1875, when amalgamation talks began, over £800 had been spent on developing the new ground. At a meeting on November 27, 1875, at the Thornhill Arms Inn the two clubs agreed to merge to form the Huddersfield Cricket and Athletics Club. The motion was passed by 55 votes to 37.

Initially the football section stayed at Rifle Field, but alterations made in the summer of 1878 meant that rugby could begin at the start of the 1878/9 season with the visit of Manchester Rangers on November 2. The new ground would become the club's home for 114 years and would provide the club's famous "Fartown" nickname.

Northern Union & Golden Years

In 1895 the club were founder members of the Northern Rugby Football Union, (later the Rugby Football League).

The club has seen many ups and downs in its long history, but for the first 60 years of rugby league it was one of the powerhouses of the game, with only Wigan as rivals in terms of trophies won.

Harold Wagstaff was only fifteen years and one hundred and seventy-five days old when he played his first match for Huddersfield, against Bramley in November 1906. At the time, he was the youngest first-team player the game had seen, he had signed on for a £5 signing-on fee.

Huddersfield beat the touring 1908-1909 Kangaroos 5-3. They were impressed enough with stand-off Albert Rosenfeld to sign him up that evening along with Australian Dual Code International Pat Walsh one of the best forwards of the Kangaroos . Rosenfeld played his first game against Broughton Rangers on 11 September 1909.

The club's golden period came around the time of the First World War. The club was able to assemble a team of players from across the British Empire who swept all before them. Known as "The Team of All Talents", they were led by Harold Wagstaff and are still regarded as one of the finest football teams to have ever played. In the five years leading up to the First World War they won 13 trophies.

Two members of the team, centre Harold Wagstaff and wing Albert Rosenfeld were honoured by inclusion in the original Rugby League Hall of Fame. They were later joined by the Cumbrian second row Douglas Clark. Of just seventeen players to be elected to the Hall of Fame, no fewer than three were teammates in that famous Huddersfield side. In total, Huddersfield boast five representatives in the Hall of Fame, more than any other club.

The particular fame of "The Team of All Talents" sprung from their extraordinary three quarter play. In 1911-1912, Rosenfeld became the first player to score more than 50 tries in a season - a feat previously thought to be impossible. That season he scored 78. His wing partner, Stanley Moorhouse scored 52. In 1912-1913, Rosenfeld scored 56, and then in 1913-1914 he broke his own record with 80 tries, a record which stands to this day.

On 28 February 1914, the club defeated Swinton Park by a record 119-2 (Rosenfeld contributing 7 tries) in a Challenge Cup tie at Fartown. The record would stand until 26 November 1994 when the Huddersfield club broke their own World Record by defeating Blackpool Gladiators 142-4 in a Challenge Cup tie at the McAlpine Stadium - centre Greg Austin scoring 9 tries on his way to 52 tries that season, a world record for a centre. In the season 1914-1915 they became only the second team to win "all four cups" when they lifted the Championship, the Challenge Cup, the Yorkshire Cup, and the Yorkshire League. Huddersfield's dominance prior to the First World War was such that they went unbeaten in 38 consecutive matches before the suspension of the league in 1915.

Huddersfield did not take part in the 1918-9 season. In the 1919-20 season, the first five games were won for a 43 match unbeaten run over six years which still stands as a record today. The unbeaten run consisted of 28 league matches, 8 Yorkshire Cup-ties, 5 Challenge Cup-ties and 2 League Championship play-offs. In addition, Huddersfield were drawing 8-8 in a Yorkshire Cup-tie that was abandoned because of fog and replayed.

The Yorkshire Cup and Yorkshire League trophies were already won when Huddersfield met Wigan in the Challenge Cup final which resulted in a 21-10 victory. Widnes were defeated in the Championship semi-final and Hull waited at Headingley as Huddersfield strove for a clean sweep of silverware. Huddersfield were missing five players who were touring Australasia with Great Britain and Hull won 3-2.

Albert Rosenfeld's last game for the club was on 2 April 1921, a cup-tie against Leeds.

Post War

Huddersfield won the League Championship in 1949, beating Warrington 13-12 in the final at Maine Road in front of what was at the time a world record crowd of 75,194. This capitalised on a season which also brought home the Yorkshire League title.

The highest attendance at Fartown to watch a Huddersfield game was 32,912 against Wigan on the 4 March 1950. More success followed in the 1950 season as Huddersfield retained the Yorkshire League title and reached another Championship final at Maine Road. However, on this occasion Wigan proved too strong, winning 20 points to 12.

On Saturday 17 November 1951, in an ordinary league game, Australian Lionel Cooper scored a club record ten tries, as Huddersfield defeated Keighley 48-3 at Fartown.

Before by the end of the 1950s, Huddersfield had won 3 Yorkshire cup finals, in 1950/51, 1952/53 and 1957/58, and the Challenge Cup final, in 1952/53. Huddersfield beat St Helens 15 - 10 in the 1953 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.

Wakefield Trinity beat Huddersfield 16-10 in the 1960 Yorkshire Cup final at Headingley Stadium, Leeds on the 29th October 1960.

In 1962, the league was split into East and West of the Pennines; Huddersfield and Hull Kingston Rovers met at Headingley, Leeds in the first final of the Eastern Division Championship on Saturday 10 November 1962.

Reigning Champions Huddersfield were favourites to lift the Eastern Division title, especially as Rovers were missing five first choice players with injuries. The Robins, however, set the early pace and were 10-0 up after 30 minutes. Despite a rally by Huddersfield, Rovers hung on to win 13-10.

Decline & Revival

By the 1970s, the club had become a shadow of its former self, the old Fartown ground had fallen into disrepair and the club frequently finished in the lower reaches of the league. Local businessman, John Bailey, took a controlling interest in the stadium, the club and the pavilion. In 1984, in an attempt to revive the club, Huddersfield adopted the moniker 'Barracudas' and Fartown was renamed Arena 84. As the crowds continued to stay away, it became clear that Bailey could not stem the decline.

Huddersfield Rugby League Club was on the point of collapse. A new board of directors took over in 1989 when and injected some much needed financial resources into the club. The 'Barracudas' and 'Arena 84' were dropped for the 1988/9 season. Nigel Stephenson was appointed as coach and Huddersfield were helped by several clubs, in particular Featherstone Rovers, to put a reasonable squad together. As well as beginning to improve the playing staff, the new owners also carried out a considerable amount of work on the Fartown stadium and by the end of the 1989/90 season significant progress was being made. Average crowds topped 1,500 for the first time since the 1970s.

Shortly after the 1991/2 season had begun, Alex Murphy took over as coach in 1991. Huddersfield were the first ever champions of the newly-formed third division in 1991/2. Promotion to the Second Division had been achieved, and there was pride once again in the famous claret and gold shirt. The expense of this achievement cost the club dearly and a new financial crisis arrived. However, along came a bright new consortium who began to shape the future of the club once again. The club left Fartown and moved to Huddersfield Town's home ground at Leeds Road in 1992.

In 1993 six teams were invited to take part in an inaugural European Clubs Championship, the six teams consisted of two from the USSR; Tiraspol and Moscow Magicians, two from France; Carcassonne and XIII Catalan and Batley and Huddersfield. Only weeks before departure the plans collapsed as both Soviet clubs pulled out due to financial difficulties, closely followed by Batley, Carcassonne who had just five players available due to a players’ strike. This left just Huddersfield and XIII Catalan to meet in the "final" in Barcelona. The lead changed hands three times before Huddersfield held on for a 23 – 22 victory.

Huddersfield took a share in the new McAlpine Stadium (now known as Galpharm Stadium) in 1994. In 1995 the first team reached the final of the Second Division premiership competition at Old Trafford.

Summer Era

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. Ken’s first trophy came in 1997 at Old Trafford where Huddersfield beat Hull 18-0 in the Divisional Championship.

In 1998, due to the collapse of Paris St Germain the club was promoted to Super League despite not winning the second division title. However, dark days continued, the team struggled to compete, winning only a handful of games. Garry Schofield was removed as Huddersfield Giants coach after 12 matches in 1998 because he lacked the necessary coaching qualifications. He was replaced by Mal Reilly who was sacked at the end of the season.

In late 1999, the club merged with Sheffield Eagles almost purely for financial reasons. Sheffield coach John Kear took over as head coach of the merged side. They were officially known as the Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants, but more popularly as 'Shuddersfield'. The Association of Premiership Clubs blocked proposals for a separate Huddersfield team in the Northern Ford Premiership. They played two home games in Sheffield at Bramall Lane with the others in Huddersfield, the away strip was in the Sheffield Eagles colours. In the 2000 season Huddersfield-Sheffield won only four games, three of them against rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. This arrangement lasted only a season before the Huddersfield name was reverted to, due to rejection from both sets of fans. In the four seasons between 1998 and 2001, they lost 81 times in 99 matches, avoiding relegation for a variety of reasons.

Coach John Kear was sacked and this signaled a change in fortune for the club. Little-known Australian Tony Smith was appointed as coach for the 2001 season after a rigorous process. This did not seem to have any effect as the club lost he first 14 matches of the season, culminating in a 78 point embarrassment by Bradford Bulls. This low point became a pivotal day for the club, however. The club won 6 and drew one of the remaining 14 games, only finishing bottom of the table after Wakefield's appeal against a 4-point salary cap deduction was successful. Widnes Vikings won the NFP competition that year and the club was seen to be fit to play in Super League. The Giants were finally relegated after their best season in Super League.

In 2002 Huddersfield Giants remained a full-time professional teams despite playing in the Northern Ford Premiership. The club went unbeaten for the entire league season, drawing only one match and winning a record equalling 29 games. Along the way the team accumulated 1,156 points to equal the record for points in a league season achieved in 8 more games by Leigh in 1986. The team won the Buddies Cup, as it was then known, and also the NFP Grand Final against Leigh in October 2002, which secured promotion back to the Super League for the 2003 season.

In 2003 under Smith, the Giants established themselves as a Super League club, finishing 10th, above Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Halifax Blue Sox. After guiding the Giants back to Super League, Smith and assistant coach Brian McDermott moved onto Headingley to take control of the Leeds Rhinos. St Helens assistant coach and former Hull forward Jon Sharp was appointed head coach for 2004 and the team improved again, finishing 7th in the league and making their first appearance in the Challenge Cup semi-finals since 1971.

The beginning of the 2005 Super League season saw the club make its highest-profile signing in fifty years when Australian centre Michael De Vere signed from the Brisbane Broncos, becoming the club's first Australian international player since Pat Devery in the 1950s.

For the kick off of the 2006 season the club unveiled a host of new signings to strengthen the squad, including the iconic New Zealand international scrum half Robbie Paul. After a convincing victory over Salford in the quarter final, the Giants faced Leeds Rhinos (ironically coached by Tony Smith) in the Challenge Cup semi-final at Odsal Stadium, Bradford. Against all the odds, massive underdogs Huddersfield pulled out what is regarded as possibly their best performance of modern times, Stuart Donlan and Chris Nero with 2 tries apiece and Michael De Vere with a try and five goals steering them to a 30-12 victory. Huddersfield lost the 2006 Challenge Cup Final to eventual Super League champions St Helens 42-12, but the performance heralded the best Huddersfield achievement since 1970.

Play-offs for the first time

The start of the 2007 season saw the Giants make some exciting signings, including West Tigers trio, Jamahl Lolesi, John Skandalis and Shane Elford, as well as Ryan Hudson who returned to rugby league after completing a 2-year drugs ban.

Despite much optimism, the season started horrendously for the Giants in terms of results. After 7 consecutive losses they found themselves marooned at the foot of the table, 5 points adrift, but ironically with the second best defence in the league. Large sections of the fans began to question the coach's ability and as a result crowds began to dwindle and morale was beginning to suffer. However, Jon Sharp maintained that the Giants could turn it around, noting that all of their prior defeats were within a converted try of victory.

By the end of May, the picture was totally different. The Giants had a Challenge Cup quarter-final to look forward to and had successfully been on their longest ever winning streak since joining the Super League (9 games including two wins in the Challenge Cup. The highlight of this run was the 36-12 victory over the Bradford Bulls in front of the Sky Television cameras on 18 May, the Giants first victory over the Bulls since joining the top flight. In addition, Sharp was named consecutively as Coach of the Month for April and May.

The Giants winning run came to an unexpected end in a shock 14-12 defeat by Salford City Reds at the Willows. They had been overwhelming favourites with fans and bookies as Salford have been rooted to the bottom of the table for the most of the season. After the defeat Huddersfield coach Jon Sharp was quoted as saying that the Giants had contributed to their own downfall by playing a poor kick and chase. Following the 2006 Challenge Cup Final appearance, Giants continued their progress by beating Wakefield for the 9th consecutive occasion to qualify for the play-offs for the first time and a match against Hull FC at the KC Stadium, which was lost 22-16.

2009 Super League season

The Giants responded from their poor season in 2008 by finishing 3rd in the league and managing to reach the final of the Challenge Cup where they lost 25-16 to League rivals Warrington Wolves, Luckily the team responded from their Cup defeat by finishing the season in a well deserved 3rd spot but unfortunately lost in the play-offs twice! Firstly to St Helens away from home and then at home to Catalan Dragons. With the Giants players and Fans suffering Cup final losses in both 2006 & 2009 they will be hoping to go one step further in 2010 and hopefully lift the Challenge Cup for the first time since the 1952-1953 season.

Many Pundits tipped the Giants to have a successful 2009 season after a very busy Off-season with Club Chairman Ken Davy bringing a new head coach & a set of new players such as Brett Hodgson who had a superb début season winning the Super League Man of Steel award and the Giants also picking up awards for Club of the year & Coach of the year (Nathan Brown).

Article source: Wikipedia; Huddersfield Giants.[If anyone knows the original author/authors of this work, please contact me.]

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