History of Bradford Rugby League Club
1863 - 1900: In the Beginning
1863: Bradford Rugby Club is created.1876: Manningham Albion is formed. Its name is shortened to Manningham in 1880.1884: Bradford win the Yorkshire Challenge Cup Trophy.1895: Bradford and Manningham are among 22 clubs that secede from the Rugby Football Union after an historic meeting at The George Hotel in Huddersfield, in response to a dispute over "broken time" payments to players. These 22 clubs form the Northern Rugby Union.1895-6: Manningham are the first winners of the Northern Union Championship. They also win the Yorkshire Senior Competition.1896-7: Manningham lose the second ever Challenge Cup final to Batley 7-0. The lineout is abolished and replaced with a punt from touch, and later, in 1901, a 10 yard scrum.
1901 - 1914: Pre-War
1903-4: Bradford finish top of the league level on points with Salford. They win the Championship play-off 5-0. Manningham turn to soccer and, as Bradford City, are elected to the Football League without playing a match.1905-6: Bradford win the Challenge Cup 5-0 against Salford and are runners up in the Championship.1906-7: Bradford win Yorkshire Cup 8-5 against Hull Kingston Rovers.The number of players making up a team is reduced from 15 a side to 13.1907: "The Great Betrayal". Bradford abandons the 13 a side Northern Union game to become a soccer club, Bradford Park Avenue. A new team BRADFORD NORTHERN is created to take their place in the Northern Union.First international tour of England - by New Zealand Rugby Union "rebels".1908: Australian and New Zealand Rugby League launched and the Australians tour England for the first time.1910: First British tour of Australia and New Zealand.
1919 - 1939: Northern Union to Rugby League
1922: Name of Northern Rugby Football Union changed to Rugby Football League.1933: Bradford Northern sign a ten year lease with the council for a former quarry being used as a waste dump at Odsal Top. Work begins to turn it into the largest stadium outside Wembley.First Rugby League match in France. Australia beat Great Britain in an exhibition match at the Stade Pershing in Paris1934: Bradford Northern move to Odsal Stadium and play their first match there on September 1st.La Ligue Francaise de Rugby a Treize (French Rugby League) formed. First international match between France and Great Britain.1938-9: The Halifax-Leeds Challenge Cup semi-final at Odsal on April 1st sets a new English attendence record of 64,453.
1940 - 1950: Wartime & Wembley
1940-41: Bradford beat Dewsbury 15-5 in the Yorkshire Cup final. Their try scorers are Trevor Foster (2) and W. Best, and the goal kicker George Carmichael (3).Also in 1941, Rugby League is banned in France during the German occupation in World War 2 (game re-established in 1946)1941-2: Bradford are the Championship runners up, but win the Yorkshire Cup final against Halifax 24-0. The try scorers are Davies (2), Best, Carter, Trevor Foster and H. Smith, with goals by Ernest Ward (2) and George Carmichael.1943-4: Bradford win a two leg Challenge Cup final against Wigan 8-0 on aggregate.1944-5: Bradford reach the Challenge Cup finals again but this time lose to Huddersfield 13-9 on aggregate. However they do win a two leg Yorkshire Cup final against Keighley 10-7 on aggragate. The try scorers are Trevor Foster and Ernest Ward (pictured top right), and the goal kickers James and Darlison.Also in 1944 a Rugby League Combined Services Team beat a Rugby Union Combined Services team at Odsal in a match played under Rugby Union rules.1945-46: Bradford win the Yorkshire Cup 5-2 against Wakefield Trinity, their try being scored by Frank Whitcombe (pictured left) and converted by George Carmichael.1946-7: Bradford beat Leeds 8-4 in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley. Bradford’s tries are scored by Trevor Foster and Emlyn Walters and converted by Ernest Ward. Willie Davies won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match.1947-8: Bradford go to Wembley again but lose the Challenge Cup to Wigan 8-3. Bradford’s solitary try is scored by, Edwards, although the Lance Todd Trophy is won by Frank Whitcombe. This is the first Rugby League match ever attended by the reigning monarch, HRH King George VI, who presents the trophy. Bradford are also the Championship runners up.1948-9: In their third consectutive Challenge Cup final Bradford beat Halifax 12-0 in front of 95,050 fans. Trevor Foster and Eric Batten (pictured bottom right) are the try scorers, while Ernest Ward kicked three goals and won the Lance Todd Trophy. They also win the Yorkshire Cup against Castleford 18-9. The try scorers in that match are Foster, Leake and Edwards(2), who also kicked 3 goals.1949-50: Bradford win the Yorkshire Cup against Huddersfield 11-4, with a try by Davies and 4 goals by Ernest Ward.
1951 - 1963: Decline & Fall
1951-2: Bradford are the Championship runners up but beat New Zealand at Odsal in the first floodlit football match of any code in the North of England.1953: A crowd of 69,429 watch Bradford play Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup 3rd Round. This is Northern’s largest ever attendance. They also win the Yorkshire Cup final 7-2 against Hull, with a try by Hawes and 2 goals by Phillips.1954: The Challenge Cup Final replay between Warrington and Halifax is held at Odsal in front of Rugby League’s largest ever crowd, officially 102,569 but estimated unofficially to be over 120,000. (The official record stood for 45 years until it was broken in 1999 when 104,583 people attend the opening of Sydney's new Olympic venue, Stadium Australia, to watch Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels v St George-Illawarra Dragons double-header in the Australian NRL competition). Meanwhile, debate continues to rage over the "actual" attendance at Odsal that day in 1954!Also in 1954, the first ever Rugby League World Cup is staged in France.1960: 83,190 people attend the Championship final at Odsal between Wakefield and Wigan, many not getting in until half time.1963: After attracting a record low crowd of 324 against Barrow (23 November) Northern go out of business on December 10th.
1964 - 1994: Renaissance
1964: Thanks to the strenuous efforts of such people as Trevor Foster and Joe Phillips the Bradford Northern club is reformed and accepted back into membership of the Rugby League.Substitutions allowed for first time - but only for injured players and only up to half time.1965-66: Bradford win the Yorkshire Cup 17-8 against Hunslet. Bradford’s try scorers are Williamson (2) and Brooke, with four goals by Clawson.End of unlimited tackles and introduction of four tackle rule.1967: Bradford play York in one of the first two Rugby League fixtures ever to be played on a Sunday. Leigh also play Dewsbury on the same day (Dec 17).1972-3: Bradford lose the Challenge Cup final against Featherstone 33-14. Bradford’s tries are scored by Redfearn, Fearnley, and converted by Eddie Tees (pictured right).1973-4: Bradford win the Second Division Championship and are promoted into the First Division. During this season Keith Mumby makes his debut, becoming the youngest player ever to appear for the club at only 16 years of age, scoring 12 goals and a try in a match against Doncaster. He goes onto make a record 576 appearances for the club. (Mumby, left, in action for Bradford Northern).1974-75: Bradford win the Regal Trophy 3-2 against Widnes, their points coming from a try by Carlton.1977-78: Peter Fox joins Bradford as coach for the first time. Bradford win the Premiership final 17-8 against Widnes, with tries by Haigh, Barends, Roe and Dave Redfearn (pictured in Great Britain gear on the right, with brother Alan, who also starred as a scrum half for Bradford Northern, to his left), and goals by Mumby and Wolford. They are also Championship runners-up.1978-79: Bradford appear in another Premiership final but this time lose against Leeds 24-2, Bradford’s solitary points coming from a goal by Ferres.1979-80: Bradford win the Championship. They also win the Regal Trophy 6-0 against Widnes, with a try by Parker and goals by Mumby and Stephenson. Peter Fox wins the award for Coach of the Year. Peter Fox and Jimmy Thompson are pictured (left) with the Championship trophy.1980-81: Bradford win the Championship again.1981-82: Bradford lose the Yorkshire Cup final against Castleford 18-7, their points coming from a try by Parker and a goal by Ellery Hanley.1982-83: Bradford lose the Yorkshire Cup final again, this time against Hull by 18 points to 7. Keith Whiteman was the only try scorer for Bradford, with a conversion and 2 drop goals from Dean Carroll. The half time score was Bradford 6 Hull 7, the referee was Stan Wall and the attendance 11,755 at Headingley. Keith Mumby wins the award for First Division Player of the Year while Brian Noble wins the Young Player award.1985: Ellery Hanley (left) wins both the Man of Steel award (for the personality judged to have made the biggest impact in the season) and First Division Player of the Year. He subsequently joins Wigan in the then British Rugby League record transfer deal, worth £80,000 and a player exchange involving Steve Donlan and Phil Ford.1987-8: After drawing 12-12, Bradford win the Yorkshire Cup final replay against Castleford 11-2. In the replay Bradford’s points come from tries by Brendan Hill and Wayne Heron, and goals by David Hobbs.1989-90: Bradford beat Featherstone 20-14 in the Yorkshire Cup final with 2 tries each by Gerald Cordle and Paul Harkin, and 2 goals by David Hobbs.1990-91: Bradford lose the Regal Trophy against Warrington 12-2, Bradford’s only points coming from a goal by David Hobbs.1993-4: Bradford finish as runners up in the Championship behind Wigan on points difference.Jeff Grayshon, pictured bottom right, was a stalwart of the Bradford Northern pack during the 1980s.
1995 - 1999: Birth of Super League
1995-96: The club's name is changed from Bradford Northern to become known as the Bradford Bulls. They adopt a new club logo and appoint highly rated Australian Brian Smith as coach, and later Chief Executive.
In April 1995, the Rugby League announce the decision to form the European Super League, and the switch in playing season from winter to summer, to begin in March 1996. The Super League consists of 10 clubs from the existing First Division (including Bradford Bulls) plus London Broncos from the Second Division, and new club Paris St Germain.1996: Bradford lose the Challenge Cup final 40-32 to St Helens. Bradford’s points come from tries by Jon Scales, Bernard Dwyer and a hat trick from captain Robbie Paul - the first ever scored at Wembley. Paul Cook kicked 6 goals. Robbie Paul won the Lance Todd Trophy followed later in the season by the award for Super League Player of the Year. In September, assistant coach Matthew Elliot becomes head coach following Brian Smith’s decision to return to Australia as coach of Parramatta Eels. Bradford Bulls finish the season as the best supported team in the competition with an average attendance in excess of 10,000.The Australian version of Super League is prevented from starting as planned in 1996, to run parallel to the British season, due to a court injunction obtained by the Australian Rugby League.1997: Bradford win the Super League title with an record run of 20 successive victories from the start of the season. They are also Challenge Cup runners-up for a second season, losing to St Helens 32-22. Bradford's try scorers were Danny Peacock, Paul Loughlin, Glen Tomlinson, and James Lowes. Steve McNamara scored the goals. James Lowes wins the Man of Steel award. He is also chosen as Super League Player of the Season while Matthew Elliot (pictured) is chosen as Super League Coach of the Season. Bradford are once again the best supported club, with an average of over 15,000.The Australian Super League finally kicks off, entering into direct competition with the Australian Rugby League causing a split in the game. All 10 Australian Super League clubs contest the World Club Championship series against the 12 clubs in the European competition.1998: A generally disappointing season for Bradford, with a fifth place finish in the Super League. They remain the best supported club, however, with an average attendance in excess of 13,000. Leon Pryce beats Keith Mumby's record from 1973 to become the youngest player ever to appear for the club.The Championship is decided by a top five play off system for the first time, culminating with an Australian styled Grand Final. Wigan win the inaugural Grand Final at Old Trafford against Leeds Rhinos. After one season, the Australian Super League merges with the Australian Rugby League to form a unified competition known as the National Rugby League (NRL).1999: Bradford sign New Zealand international Henry Paul from Wigan Warriors to link up with brother Robbie Paul for the first time at professional club level. The club achieves record season ticket sales, and a new scoring record is established when the Bulls defeat Workington Town by 92 points to nil in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup at Odsal. Bulls secure Minor Premiership in Super League IV whilst also remaining undefeated at Odsal. The final home game sees the Bulls smash the Super League attendance record with 24,020 fans packing Odsal to see the 19-18 defeat of Leeds Rhinos. A Rugby League record 50,717 fans at Old Trafford see the Bulls in the Grand Final against St Helens, where they are defeated by 8 points to 6. Henry Paul wins the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match.
2000 to Present Day:
A New Millennium2000: Bulls win the Challenge Cup for the first time in 51 years by 24 points to 18 against local rivals Leeds Rhinos. Henry Paul wins the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match. The match is played at the Scottish Rugby Union's Murrayfield Stadium, the first time in the history of the competition that the final has been held in Scotland, and goes ahead despite major flooding at the ground only two days before.A record 16 teams contest the twelfth Rugby League World Cup, which is staged at multiple venues around England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France. The tournament is won by Australia who defeat New Zealand in the final at Old Trafford, Manchester.2001: The Bulls take up residence at Valley Parade, home of Bradford City AFC, to allow for the redevelopment of Odsal Stadium. They reach the Challenge Cup final at Twickenham, but suffer a 13-6 defeat to St Helens. On 3rd May in a home match against Warrington, Henry Paul sets a new World Record for consecutive goal kicks (35). The Bulls finish the regular season as Minor Premiers and on 13th October at Old Trafford, a new Super League Grand Final record attendance of 60,164 is established as the Bulls crush Wigan Warriors 37-6 to claim the Championship Trophy. Michael Withers scores a try hat-trick and is awared the Harry Sunderland Trophy as Man of the Match.Also in 2001, Bulls second row forward Jamie Peacock scores the opening try for Great Britain after just two minutes as they defeat Australia 20-12 in Huddersfield in the first Ashes Test for seven years, but Australia go on to take the series 2-1, winning the second Test at Bolton and the third Test at Wigan.2002: The Bulls are crowned World Club Champions on 1st February after defeating Australian Premiers Newcastle Knights 41-26 in front of a crowd of 21,113 at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium. James Lowes is named as Man of the Match and Paul Deacon kicks eight goals from nine attempts plus one drop goal for a total of 17 points in the match, an individual scoring record for this competition.2003: Bradford Bulls have the most successful season in the history of the Club, winning all three titles. They travelled to Cardiff to beat the Leeds Rhinos at the Millennium Stadium 22-20, then went on to lift the League Leaders Shield for finishing top of the Super League after 28 rounds, before defeating Leeds Rhinos again, for the fifth time in the season, in the Qualifying Semi Final Play Off to Reach the Tetley's Rugby Super League Grand Final. An outstanding performance of skill and domination saw the Bulls claim the Super League title with victory over a spirited Wigan Warriors. The season also saw the retirement of super star hooker James Lowes after an illustrious career, and the departure of veteran loose forward Mike Forshaw.2004: Bradford Bulls regained the world club challenge by beating the NRL champions Penrith Panthers 22–4 in front of a packed crowd at the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield. 2004 also saw the Bulls beat Leeds Rhino’s in the play offs to reach the Grand Final, Only to meet their arch rivals two weeks later at Old Trafford in front of a record grand final crowd of 67,000. This time Bradford were narrowly edged out by Leeds, eventually losing 18–6. 2004 was a superb year for the ‘The Volcano’ Lesley Vainikolo as he smashed the Super League try scoring record with a total of 37 tries in only 26 appearances. This remarkable achievement started in the first round of the regular super league season as he crossed the try line on 5 separate occasions against Wigan Warriors to equal the record for the total number of tries in a super league game.2004 also saw 5 Bradford players being named in the Great Britain squad for the tri-nations series with Brian Noble being placed in charge of the GB Lions side. Four other Bulls players were named in the New Zealand side to face them. The series was a great success for Bulls utility back Stuart Reardon as he crossed the try line 4 times and finished Great Britain’s top try scorer.