Last updated:

Thursday 02 November, 2023



Formed in 1923 by a group of Old Boys of Crossley and Porter School; Old Crossleyans quickly made their mark. Probably their most notable achievement in this pre-war era was a one point winning margin over Halifax in 1939 before the club disbanded for the duration of the war. The advent of league rugby saw regular fixtures established between the clubs and after three consecutive victories for Crocs in 1992, 93 & 94, Halifax finally turned the tables in 1995 with a 17 – 15 win at Ovenden Park. In recent seasons Halifax have gone semi professional and have inflicted a series of defeats on a strictly amateur Crossleyan side and are now three divisions above.

After the Second World War, a move to re-form the club soon gathered momentum. After “testing the water” with a handful of games towards the end of season 1947 – 48, Crocs fulfilled a complete programme the following year. The late Douglas Ibbetson, club president for many years, was one of the few whose playing career spanned the war period.

He was the first person not from the teaching profession to be honoured with the presidency. His successor, Ken Marshall, presided over many of the club’s most successful years, seeing Crocs break free of the “old boy” network to advance their status through success in league rugby. John Armitage, who took over from Ken, led the club through three exciting years and saw Crocs qualify for the Pilkington Cup. The reins were then handed over to Bill Bradley who has negotiated the difficult years of the introduction of professionalism with considerable skill. Despite sticking to the amateur ethos, the re-structure of the leagues saw Crossleyans step up to a higher level in North Two East. The challenge of facing semi professionals – some of them ex Rugby league Internationals – proved too much for Crocs in the end and at the close of last season they were relegated along with another three teams.

This season sees Crossleyans at the same level as when leagues were introduced. One redeeming feature about being in Yorkshire One is the reduction in travelling and the knowledge that we will be able to understand what the opposition members are talking about after the game!

Traditionally the headmaster of Crossley and Porter School held the post of President. The late Mr Bernard Newport and another rugby enthusiast, the late Mr John Stanley Bolton, covered more than four decades from 1923 to 1966. On his retirement as headmaster, Mr Bolton became the club’s first Patron and on his death this pre-eminent “job for life” was passed on to the one and only Harry Wolstenholme. Without Harry’s efforts over the years it is doubtful if we would enjoy anything like the club we have today.

Old Crossleyans made great strides during the late 1950s and 1960s under the inspiring coaching of the late Stan Sparkes. The Yorkshire Shield was won followed by the Yorkshire Cup in 1960 when Sandal were defeated 9 – 0 at Morley. Even when the “big guns” returned to the competition, Crocs narrowly failed to reach the final in 1965, beaten in “sudden death” extra time by a Harrogate team boasting two British Lions and several county players.

Over a period of more than twenty years Crossleyans were admirably served by two fullbacks of outstanding ability. Former Yorkshire Schools player, Dick Aspinall, a fearless tackler and a fullback in the classical mould was followed by Paul Beck. “George”, to give him his nickname, had an abundance of talent, and was a natural ball player at many sports. A prolific goal kicker, he smashed the previous points scoring record with 399 points in season 1974 -75. He averaged 9 points for each of his 372 appearances. Talking about appearances, two club stalwarts, Harry Wolstenholme and Derek Ainley, who captained the side for a record six seasons have more than 1100 games between them! A current player, Richard Jowett, is hot on the heels of these record holders. At only 22 he has played 101 games and already amassed 891points.

Winners of the Yorkshire Post Merit Table in successive seasons, Crocs created a club record of twenty four consecutive wins in season 1988 – 89 and went on to win promotion to North Two in 1991 as champions of North East One.

Many exciting players have emerged from Crossleyan ranks in recent years and one such talent has been ex Colt and Crossley Heath player, James Naylor. A schoolboy international, Jim notched many hat tricks for the club and after starring with Orrell and Newcastle Falcons he was rewarded by selection for England Under 21s. This was followed by his winning a place in the England “A” team tour of Australia. After a brief flirtation with Rugby League at Halifax Blue Sox, Jim joined Yorkshire’s first Premier Division side, Rotherham and then moved on to Leicester. His plans are for this season are uncertain at this stage but he still has a lot of top class rugby in him. He is still a committed Old Crossleyan and I do not doubt that some day in the future he will grace Broomfield once more.

In 1997, James Mallinder, formerly captain but now Director of Rugby at Sale, became the second Old Crossleyan to be selected for England when he represented his country against Argentina. Jim has made a big name for himself in his new coaching role and looks certain to go on to bigger things. He is another committed “Old Croc” and despite his busy schedule, he has promised to help out at some of our training sessions during the coming season.

Pride of place has to go to Brian Moore however who made his England debut against Scotland in 1987 and went on to become his country’s most capped hooker. A Barbarian and a British Lion on two tours, Brian has always kept up his links with us and the club is very proud of the full set of international shirts, which adorn the walls of the clubhouse – a source of great pride to all Crossleyans.

Special mention must be made of Andy Day who will forgive me for saying that he is now at the veteran stage, (if that makes you feel old, what about me, I was your Colts’ coach!). After a spell at Wakefield he returned to captain the club and without his presence on the field currently we would be in dire straights. His claim to fame is however that he is, up to now, the only player to be selected for Yorkshire whilst playing for Crocs.

Although many other clubs have caught up, some even surpassing our amenities, we are still proud of Standeven House. Being an old Victorian building it costs a huge amount to maintain and we do not benefit from outside help or lottery grants. Fund raising is always on the agenda therefore and we have an ambitious refurbishment plan which should bring Standeven House back to its former glory – it has, after all, never lost its character!

John Philburn, Hon P.R.O. Old Crossleyans RUFC