23rd April 2020
It’s so important to keep the spirit of Parkside alive.
The Hunslet ex-Parkside Players Association has been described as ‘the most exclusive club in sport’. Only men who played for the club; first or second team, before the Parkside ground was sold in 1973 are entitled to attend. Plus, guest speakers. We had the ex-Leeds MP Merlyn Rees once, who was Northern Ireland minister during the Troubles.
After Parkside closed, Harry Jepson met up with some of the greats who’d played for Hunslet. One of them suggested we all meet and have a drink to its closing. Harry being Harry said, ‘we’ll do it properly – we’ll have a meal and a proper reunion!’ That was 48 years ago, and it’s continued from then. First Sunday in June every year.
That was 48 years ago, and it’s continued from then. First Sunday in June every year.
Harry ran it himself at first, then somehow, I got involved. We had 119 players in 1973; last year at the Hilton in Leeds we had 83. Those who come along love it. I sometimes ask myself if we are right to keep it exclusive as it will eventually die off. But this is for our forefathers.
I was raised in Hunslet and was always supporter before I became a player. Some good rugby players came from around Pearson Street where I lived – Peter Anson, Dennis Tate, George Gomersall…
After the slum clearance in the mid-fifties, we moved up to Swarcliffe and I changed schools. Cross Green was a soccer-playing school. Paul Reaney, the Leeds United legend, went there. We were born the same day a year apart.
I didn’t start playing rugby till I was 16. I bumped into an old pal, Jack Bramfoot, who mentioned going down to junior level at Hunslet. I loved it. I went through the system and by the end of the under 19s, Harry Jepson invited me down for second team trials. I signed on at 19 in 1964/65.
‘We’ll play for nothing’, said Alan Preece, ‘and anybody who doesn’t want to can go now’. Not one player walked out.
Every game of rugby I played was a highlight for me, but two finals stand out. In 1969, the club was so short of money they were going to pull the plug on the second team. ‘We’ll play for nothing’, said Alan Preece, ‘and anybody who doesn’t want to can go now’. Not one player walked out. That season we went on to beat Cas at Castleford in the Yorkshire League Senior Competition Final and lost to Cas at Parkside in the Yorkshire Senior Cup Final as well. That was what rugby was all about. Money wasn’t the main reason we played.
I had to play 50 first team games at Hunslet to earn a £500 bonus on my contract. I’d played 48, then it was ‘see you later Peter’. A lot of players didn’t quite play 50! I had a great time at Hunslet though and I’ve never forgotten it.
I then went to Bramley, where we got promoted to Division One. I retired after Bramley, but Maurice Bamford took me to me to Bradford Northern when he was assistant to Peter Fox. And then when Maurice got the job at Halifax, he asked me to go with him. I had three seasons there – absolutely marvellous times. We reached the final of the Yorkshire Cup and the semi-final of the Challenge Cup and got promotion too.
I had to play 50 first team games at Hunslet to earn a £500 bonus on my contract. I’d played 48, then it was ‘see you later Peter’
I followed Maurice to Huddersfield next and later joined him at Bramley as coach of the Colts (under 19s). I went on the first coaching course run under the new Phil Larder regime, which came in after the shock of the 1982 Australia Invincibles tour of Great Britain.
At amateur level, I coached Belle Isle, Corpus Christi, Milford, and Leeds University. I even got to coach two clubs that I played for and loved: Bramley and then Hunslet along with David Ward. We won the Division Two title in 1987 and we played in the first ever double header at Old Trafford. Swinton beat us 27-10, but we were unlucky on the day. For me that was the end of my coaching career and Rugby League for a while.
I was a licensee at the time and spent 35 years in the trade. When I left school, I got an apprenticeship at West Yorkshire Foundries as a heavy goods fitter, but I was never cut out for that type of work. It’s no fun coming home smelling of diesel every day. Alan Preece was running a pub called the Prospect in East Leeds and was looking for a bar cellar man. I went to work for him. I then got my own place, The Whip in Leeds city centre through Tetley’s. My son Jason was born there in 1970. It was pure and simply for boozers!
I’d never been in a rougher pub in my life – I’d started out as a licensee and finished up as a war correspondent!
From the Sportsman’s it was back to the Prospect, the Shaftsbury on York Road where my daughter Zoe was born, the Grey Goose in Belle Isle, then the Villager in Bramley which I owned and was where I finished my career. I’d never been in a rougher pub in my life – I’d started out as a licensee and finished up as a war correspondent! I loved it though. The pubs had character. I lived life to the full, but I don’t go into pubs often nowadays. They’re not the same.
Instead I go to the Friday breakfast club at South Leeds Stadium with my wife, Diane. The men sit on their own and natter; the women do the same. We’re all 70-plus. It’s all about chat, no distractions like music or TV. We go through all the memorabilia and talk about the old days. With some of the ex-players, the older they get the better they played.
Quite a few historians and anoraks come down-lots of ex-Parksiders. There’s no alcohol involved, though we only need a cup of coffee to start a fight!
Who do I most admire? My parents, Alf and Mary. My Wife Diane, My son Jason and my daughter Zoe. And my granddaughters, Kennedy and Vae. And everybody in Rugby League - as long as they don’t cross me.
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