Changing Times - 1970 to 1995

1970

The Club is in dire financial straights and faces closure. After a public appeal fails to raise sufficient funds, local businessman Ossie Davies stepped in and took over and saved the Club. Davies was Chairman of builders Leonard Fairclough. He immediately set about putting plans together to secure the financial future of the Club. His vision was to cater for the needs of all ages and tastes of the ever increasing population in Warrington by creating a modern and comprehensive leisure complex.

 

1971

In January, former groundsman Jack Hamblett was presented with a cheque for £542, being the money raised from his testimonial fund. Jack set a record of 50 years service as groundsman and few people have given such loyal service to the Club.

Warrington finish 22nd in the league, their lowest ever finishing position, with 13 wins and 2 draws from 34 matches. The average attendance of 2,901 is the lowest ever recorded at Wilderspool.

On 20th May, Alex Murphy, fresh from his triumphs with Leigh is appointed player coach.

The south terrace is demolished to make way for the new Leisure Centre. The roof to this stand is moved to cover the Spion Kop, which is reduced in size and the terrace relaid in concrete.

Murphy brought in a number of new faces, notably Dave Chisnall and Geoff Clarkson from Leigh, Bobby Wanbon from St Helens, Toby Du Toit a South African and Frank Reynolds from Aberavon Rugby Union Club.

In September, Warrington defeat the New Zealand tourists 13-2. Chisnall, Pitman and Henighan scored tries and Whitehead kicked 2 goals. A crowd of 6,295 witness the match.

The John Player Trophy is introduced. Warrington lose their first match in the new competition to, the eventual winners, Halifax 16-9 at Wilderspool.

 

1972

Challenge Cup tie wins over Batley, Castleford after a replay and Bramley led to a semi-final tie with St Helens. The first match, at Wigan, ended in a 10-10 draw, with Alex Murphy and Toby Du Toit scoring tries, Du Toit kicked a goal and Murphy dropped a goal. Warrington lost another bruising match at Wigan 6-10 to a late and dubious St Helens try. Du Toit kicked 2 goals and Murphy dropped a goal before a crowd of 32,380.

The six-tackle rule is introduced. Timekeepers with a hooter system take responsibility from referees for controlling time in matches.

After a very average first season in charge, Murphy brought in some very good players to streng then the team. They included Great Britain hooker Kevin Ashcroft from Leigh, rugby union players from Wales Mike Nicholas, Denis Curling and Clive Jones.

In October Wilderspool hosted the Lancashire Cup final, when Salford beat Swinton 25-11 to win the trophy for the first time since 1936, again at Wilderspool. A crowd of 6,879 saw the star-studded Salford side win handsomely.

In November the Leisure Club on the Priory Street side of the ground was opened. Built at a cost of £300,000 the club included concert room, bars, sauna and squash courts. There was some seating under the huge glass window but Wilderspool effectively became a three sided ground with its capacity cut to 21,000.

On 25th November former secretary Bob Anderton died at the age of 84. Warrington were at the top of the league at the time. Mr. Anderton must go down in history as one of rugby league's greatest administrators.

On Boxing Day Wilderspool witnessed the first sending off of Mike Nicholas, in Wire colours in a 6-6 draw with Leigh. This was to become a regular sight over the next eight years.

 

1973

A 20 match unbeaten run in the league helped Warrington win the League Leaders Trophy by finishing top of the league. They were guaranteed top spot before losing three of the last four matches. The win was a tribute to the magnetic leadership of player coach Alex Murphy and the ambition of the new Wilderspool hierarchy. This was a dramatic improvement on the previous season's 15th place.

Warrington beat Wigan and Rochdale Hornets in the play-offs, before suffering a shock 7-12 defeat to Dewsbury in the semi-final at Wilderspool. Dewsbury then went on to win the final Championship Final.

The RFL introduced two divisions for the 1973/4 season to replace the one league. Warrington were shown fourth in a compilation table of all league matches going back to the start of Northern League in 1901/2. They had a 60.97% success rate and finished behind Wigan, Leeds and Oldham.

In September Wales and British Lion rugby union winger John Bevan joined Warrington, for £12,000. He made a try scoring debut in a 22-5 victory over Castleford at Wilderspool.

Wilderspool again hosted the Lancashire Cup final, when 8,522 people saw Wigan beat Salford 19-9.

In December Wilderspool staged its only ever Test match, when Australia defeated Great Britain 15-5, before a crowd of 10,019. The match went ahead despite the freezing conditions and the bone hard frozen pitch because Australia had to leave for

France the following morning. Remarkably, despite Warrington being the most successful side in the domestic game, not one player from the Club played against the 1973 Kangaroos.

 

1974

In January, Warrington won the Captain Morgan Trophy in its one and only season. The trophy was restricted to the sixteen clubs that won their Lancashire and Yorkshire Cup first round ties. The Wire beat Wigan, Castleford and Leeds to reach the final. Featherstone Rovers were defeated 4-0 in the final at Salford, with man of the match, Derek Whitehead kicking two goals.

Easy home victories over Oldham, Castleford, Dewsbury and St Helens saw Warrington through to the final of the Player's No. 6 Trophy. In the final Warrington thoroughly deserved their 27-16 victory over Rochdale Hornets at Wigan. Mike Nicholas, Derek Noonan (2), John Bevan and Derek Whitehead scored tries and Whitehead kicked 6 goals. Skipper Kevin Ashcroft won the man of the match award.

On 3rd March, scrum half Parry Gordon scored five tries in a 26-10 over Dewsbury, in the first division match, at Wilderspool. Amazingly he was overlooked for selection for the Great Britain tour and a place was given to the Dewsbury scrum half, Alan Bates.

Murphy inspired Warrington win through to the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley for the first time in 20 years. Second division basement clubs Huddersfield and Huyton were easily defeated at Wilderspool before a third round visit to Wigan. Three Kevin Ashcroft drop goals saw the Wire home 10-6. In the semi final Dewsbury were defeated 17-7 at Wigan, with tries from Frank Reynolds, Alan Whittle and John Bevan, Derek Whitehead kicked two goals and Kevin Ashcroft dropped two goals.

Warrington won the Challenge Cup final with a decisive 24-9 win over Featherstone Rovers. 80,000 saw player coach Alex Murphy stage manage the match as though it were a Hollywood blockbuster, such that Featherstone were completely bewildered as to what was happening. Kevin Ashcroft and Mike Nicholas scored tries, Lance Todd Trophy winner Derek Whitehead kicked 6 penalty goals and a conversion, whilst Alex Murphy dropped 2 goals from 4 attempts.

A week later the Warrington season finished on 18th May with a Championship Final win over St Helens at Wigan, before a crowd of 18,556. The foundations of a nail biting 13-12 victory were laid by Warrington's tireless and hard working pack. Mike Philbin, Brian Brady and Derek Noonan scored tries and Derek Whitehead kicked two conversions. Loose forward Barry Philbin was a deserved winner of the Harry Sunderland trophy as man of the match. The match finished with a spate of drop goals, with Alex Murphy missing 6 and Kevin Ashcroft 3.

So ended Warrington's most successful season with Locker Cup, Captain Morgan Trophy, Player's No 6 Trophy, Challenge Cup and Club Championship Trophy all finishing up in the Wilderspool Trophy cabinet. The Club must have had the largest wage bill and insurance premium in the game. Warrington played a record 51 matches during the season. The average home league attendance increased by 71% over the previous season. The average league attendance of 7,323 was the highest since 1956/7.

As a consequence of Alex Murphy's drop goal strategy, their value is halved to one point.

Kevin Ashcroft, John Bevan and Mike Nicholas were selected for the Great Britain tour of Australasia. However a knee injury suffered in the Challenge Cup final caused Mike Nicholas to withdraw. Bevan played in the First and Third Tests against Australia scoring a try and the First and Third Tests against New Zealand scoring 3 tries and Ashcroft was sub in the First Test against New Zealand. Bevan finished the tour the second leading try scorer with 15.

Warrington competed in their only BBC2 Floodlight Trophy final when they lost the replay to Salford 10-5 at Wilderspool. John Bevan scored the Wires try and Whitehead kicked a goal, before a crowd of 5,778. The first match, the only ever drawn final had finished scoreless, at Salford.

 

1975

Bradford Northern won their first major trophy in 26 years when they defeated Widnes 3-2 in the Player's No 6 Trophy final at Wilderspool. A crowd of 5,915 braved the atrocious weather conditions witnessed a fiercely contested game.

Challenge Cup victories against Halifax, Wigan and New Hunslet enabled Warrington to reach the semi-final where they played Leeds at Wigan. The Wire were well on top in the match and three tries from John Bevan and one goal from Derek Whitehead saw the cup holders return to Wembley. Widnes dominated the final to come out winners 14-7. John Bevan scored a try and Derek Whitehead kicked 2 goals. Kevin Ashcroft excelled in a poor Warrington performance.

A run of 9 wins in the last 10 league matches enabled Warrington to finish 6th in the league. They were beaten in the Premiership play-off 14-22 at Bradford.

Whilst the first team may have had a disappointing season the "A" team went through unbeaten, winning the Lancashire Combination with ease.

Warrington were well represented in the World Cup, with Dave Chisnall, Parry Gordon, Tommy Martyn, Derek Noonan and Barry Philbin in the England squad, coached by Alex Murphy, and John Bevan, Mike Nicholas and Bobby Wanbon in the Welsh squad.

Kevin Ashcroft returns to Leigh and Dave Chisnall is transferred to Swinton. They are replaced by Tony Miller from Huddersfield and Brian Butler from Bradford.

On 21st September, Alex Murphy played his last match of rugby league at stand-off for Warrington in an 18-16 victory over Keighley at Wilderspool. Wilderspool staged its first ever World Cup match in September. England beat Wales 22-16. A crowd of 5,034 saw a free-scoring but closely contested match.
John Bevan was Warrington's only representative in the match. On 2nd November Steve Hesford made his debut on the wing in a 4-47 defeat at Wakefield. He did howeverscore the first of his record 1,112 goals for Warrington.


Mike Nicholas's season was delayed through injury until the visit of Huddersfield to Wilderspool, on 16th November. He then lasted 28 minutes before being sent off for flattening centre Glen Knight. The following month Knight signed for Warrington, he decided it was safer to play with Nicholas than against him.

1976

Junior Club Leigh Miners Welfare almost pulled off a shock win at Wilderspool in the Challenge Cup. Warrington scrapped through 16-12, they then beat New Hunslet 17-4 to set up a quarter final tie with Widnes at Wilderspool. A hard fought match was won by Widnes 6-0 in front of a crowd of 10,621, easily the largest at Wilderspool that season. A run of only four defeats in the last sixteen games from New Years Day to the end of the season ensured that Warrington pulled out of the relegation zone, to finish 10th.

 

1977

Ken Kelly joined Warrington from Bradford Northern for a transfer fee of £6,000. He made his debut at stand off on New Years Day in a 9-4 victory over Leigh at Wilderspool.

Wins against Blackpool Borough, Salford, Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity enabled Warrington to reach the final of the John Player Trophy. The final in January was won 9-4 against Widnes at St Helens. John Bevan scored a try and man of the match Steve Hesford kicked 3 goals.


On 1st May Warrington were beaten by Hull KR 13-18 in the Premiership. However Warrington progressed through, when the game was awarded to the Wire
because Hull KR had fielded an ineligible player, Phi Lowe. Warrington again lost in the semi-final at Featherstone 13-17, but won the second leg at Wilderspool 11-1 to progress through to the final. The final at Swinton was also lost, this time to St Helens 32- 20. Alan Gwilliam, Barry Philbin, Parry Gordon
and Derek Weavill scored tries and Steve Hesford kicked 4 goals.

Steve Hesford established himself as a top goalkicker, kicking 122 goals and dropping a further 7. Tommy Martyn was chosen for the Great Britain
World Cup squad to Australia, but had to withdraw through injury.

The season started badly with seven defeats in the first nine league matches.

On 14th September Bob Eccles made his debut as substitute in a 14-17 defeat to Salford at Wilderspool. Wins against Blackpool Borough, Salford, Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity saw Warrington reach the final of the John Player Trophy.

 

1978

The John Player Trophy was won 9-4, after a hard fought final against Widnes at St Helens, before a crowd of 10,258. Wingers Bevan with a try and Hesford
with three goals were the Wires heroes, Hesford winning the man of the match award.

Warrington had Challenge Cup victories at York 16-10, home to Swinton 29-4 and home to Widnes 6-0 to reach the semi-final. A close fought affair is won by St Helens 12-8 at Wigan before a crowd of 16,167. John Dalgreen and John Bevan scored tries and Steve Hesford kicked a goal. Warrington finished the season in 9th place in the league. They are however given a place in the play-offs after the Featherstone Rovers players go on strike. John Bevan scored 30 tries for the Club and Steve Hesford kicked 158 goals, including dropped goals. In June Alex Murphy left Wilderspool after seven years as coach, for Salford and centre Billy Benyon became player coach.

On 11th October saw a crowd of just over 10,000 witness a late controversial Alan Gwilliam try giving the Wire a 15-12 win over Australia. Steve Hesford kicked

six goals as the tourists lost their first match of the tour. All the Warrington players gave a magnificent display, in a brutal match, packmen Tommy Martyn, Mike Nicholas, Tommy Cunningham and Roy Lester were in superb form, ably supported by replacement half backsGwilliam and Clark. This was Warrington's eighth win over Australia.

1979

Victories over Blackpool Borough, Featherstone Rovers, Leigh and Hull Kingston Rovers once again put Warrington into the final of the John Player Trophy.
In March England beat France 12-6 to retain the European Championship at Wilderspool, 5,004 spectators witness the Wires Tommy Martyn score the
winning try, Ken Kelly was also in the team. The bad weather in January resulted in the John Player Trophy being put back to April. The final was once again
against Widnes at St Helens. This time Widnes ran out winners 16-4, Warrington's points came from two Steve Hesford goals.

A vast improvement in league form enabled Warrington to finish second to Champions Hull Kingston Rovers,equalling their highest ever finish in two divisions. The season ended with a disappointing loss at home to Bradford 11-14 in the play-offs. This was a violent affair that saw Mike Nicholas and Jimmy Thompson (of Bradford) sent off, Ken Kelly suffered a fractured jaw. Steve Hesford sets the Warrington record for the most goals in a season with 170, including 13 dropped goals.

Tommy Martyn was selected for the Great Britain tour of Australia. He failed to make the Test team. Ken Kelly had to withdraw from the tour party following the injury suffered against Bradford. John Bevan also had to withdraw through injury. In September the Warrington Club celebrated its centenary.

The new season started with five successive victories. However successive defeats to Widnes at Wilderspool ended participation in the Lancashire Cup and John Player Trophy.

In October Ossie Davies resigned from the Board and was replaced as Chairman by Brian Pitchford.

1980

Challenge Cup tie wins over Swinton and Leeds set up a quarter final tie at Hull KR. The champions went on to win 23-11. In April Mike Nicholas plays his last game for Warrington at Blackpool. Wire win 9-3, but not surprisingly Mike is sent off for fighting, along with Blackpool's John Corcoran. This is a record thirteenth sending off in 152 appearances for the Wire.

After the league performances of last season it was disappointing to drop back to mid-table.

In the summer, director Harold Genders left Wilderspool, to help launch a new club at Fulham; their first signing is Roy Lester on a free transfer from Warrington. Fulham later became the London Broncos.

Warrington appeared in their first Lancashire Cup final for thirteen years, when they cantered to victory over second division, Wigan 26-10 at St Helens. Steve Hesford created a new points scoring record of seventeen points, with seven goals and a try, Rick Thackray, John Bevan and Tommy Martyn also scored tries, hooker Tony Waller won the man of the match award.

Warrington defeated the New Zealand tourists 11-7 under the Wilderspool lights. Eddie Hunter and Tommy Martyn scored tries, Steve Hesford kicked 2 goals and Tony Waller dropped a goal. A crowd of 5,680 saw theKiwis final match at Wilderspool. Four days later Ken Kelly is recalled for the second test against New
Zealand, eight years after his last test appearance. He follows this as non-playing substitute in the final test. On 20th November Paul Cullen signs from Crosfields. Four players are sent off in the John Player Trophy third round tie against Halifax at Wilderspool. The Wire progress through 16-10.

 

1981

Warrington beat St Helens, Hull KR, Halifax and Castleford after a replay in the semi final, to reach the John Player Trophy final. The John Player Trophy is
won for the third time, with a 12-5 victory over Barrow, at Wigan. A Tommy Martyn inspired Wire scored two tries through John Bevan and Steve Hesford kicked two goals and dropped two goals. A then record John Player tournament crowd of 12,820 watched the match. John Bevan captains Wales in their defeats
against France and England. Ken Kelly and Ian Potter play in both England's matches with Kelly scoring a try against the Welsh. However France win the European Championship. Warrington failed to reach their third final of the season, when they lost in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, 17-9 to Widnes, at Wigan. A crowd of 12,624 saw a John Bevan try and two Steve Hesford goals give the Wire an early lead, but they could not hold on as Widnes brought to an end the Wire's run of 13 unbeaten cup ties.

A 11-4 defeat at Leigh, in the last match of the season costs Warrington the first division title. The Club's tenth match in a hectic last 24 days of the season. The Wire finish as runners up to Bradford Northern.

Warrington captain, Ken Kelly received the Trumanns Man of Steel award for his inspired leadership of his club. Kelly was also voted First Division Player of the Year by his fellow players and Billy Benyon won the coach of the year award. Steve Hesford finished the season as the game's leading goalkicker with 147 and point scorer with 310.

In September an injury crisis forces 37 year old Parry Gordon out of retirement to play his 543rd and final game for the Wire, at Wilderspool in a 14-7 victory over Castleford.

In November Mark Forster signs for Warrington from local amateurs, Woolston Rovers.

1982

Kevin Ashcroft replaces Billy Benyon as coach in March.

In April Tony Barrow's "A" team beat Whitehaven 12-10 away and 30-5 at home, to win the Lancashire Shield 42-15 on aggregate.

On 29th April fire destroys the main stand. Insurance monies and a town appeal helps to fund a replacement. The pitch was so badly scorched that the following week's Premiership replay with Leigh had to be played at Central Park, with the Wire winning 10-9. Paul Cullen and Ronnie Duane are selected for the Great Britain Colts tour of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Cullen played in all 7 matches and Duane 5 matches, including the "Test" defeat to Australia 15-20. Mike Gregory is signed from Wigan St Patrick's amateur club in June.

On 30th September Warrington, despite a protest, are forced to play their Lancashire Cup semi-final against Fulham at Wigan because of the lack of floodlights. This did not stop them progressing to the final with a 17-8 win over the previously unbeaten Fulham.

Warrington beat St Helens 16-0 at Wigan to win the Forshaws Lancashire Cup, in front of 6,462 spectators. Steve Hesford puts in a man of the match performance despite only kicking two out of nine attempts at goal. Paul Fellows, Bob Eccles, Mike Kelly and Ken Kelly score the Wires tries.

In November, coach Kevin Ashcroft is fined £100 and banned from the touchline for four games for abusing referee Ron Moore.

Ken Kelly is selected as substitute for Great Britain as they lose 40-4 to Australia at Boothferry Park, Hull in thefirst test. Kelly is promoted to scrum half for the second test and accompanied by team mate Bob Eccles in the second row. Great Britain axe ten of the team but still lose 27-6 to Australia, at Central Park, Wigan. Neil Courtney was substitute forward for the third test as Australia complete a whitewash with a 32-8 victory. Bob Eccles scored five tries against Blackpool Borough, in the John Player Trophy. This was the last occasion that a Warrington player scored five tries in a match at Wilderspool.

 

1983

Warrington start the New Year by losing the semi-final of the John Player Trophy 14-15 to Wigan at St Helens. The Wire score four tries to three, but the usually reliable Steve Hesford's television bogey hit as he only kicked one goal. On 6th February the new stand is opened before thedefeat of Hull 18-16. The new cantilever stand has just over 2,000 blue and yellow tip-up seats, and provides one of the best views in the game.

Ronnie Duane makes his Great Britain international debut in a 20-5 win over France in Carcassonne. He scores a try in the 17-5 win in the return match at the Boulevard, Hull.

In March, hooker Roger O'Mahoney became the first Warrington player to be sin binned at Wilderspool. The sin bin had been introduced in January. Second rower Bob Eccles finished the season as the first division's leading try scorer with 22 and the season leader with 37 tries in all games. A number of new rules were introduced at the beginning of the 1983/4 season which resulted in further changes in the patterns of play and lead tomuch higher scoring matches. A try is increased in value from three to four points. The ball is now handed over after the sixth tackle, instead of a scrum being formed, thus there is a reduction in scrums and increased continuity of play.

In August, the Club announce the sponsorship of their playing shirt, for the first time, by car radio firm Sparkomatic.

Paul Fellows scored Warrington's first four point try in a 22-22 draw at Hull. A week later John Bevan scored the first four pointer at Wilderspool, but it was not enough to prevent Warrington going down 8-12 to St Helens. In September Warrington list international Bob Eccles at £80,000 and Phil Ford for £65,000, as a disciplinary measure.

Second Division Barrow pull off a shock win, 19-18 in a thriller at Wilderspool, knocking out holders Warrington to reach the Lancashire Cup final.

 

1984

In January, Ronnie Duane played centre for Great Britain in their 12-0 victory over France at Avignon.

The “A” team won the Lancashire Shield by beating Oldham 43-31 over two legs.

Ronnie Duane is Warrington’s sole representative on the Great Britain tour of Australia and New Zealand. His tour lasts just nine minutes as he is carried off with torn knee ligaments, in the first tour match, a 40-13 victory over Northern Territory at Darwin.

Coach Kevin Ashcroft leaves Warrington with two years of his contract to run. Reg Bowden left Fulham to take over as coach in June. Peter Higham was elected the new Chairman.

In July, Paul Bishop signs for the Wire, on his 17th birthday. In the same month Dave Chisnall leaves for Rochdale Hornets.

 

In November Warrington are threatened by the RFL with severe action if they play unregistered Moroccan winger Hussein M'Barki at Hull. His debut is delayed until the following week's John Player Special cup tie at Wilderspool against Halifax, after he is declared a free agent. One week later doctors have to rush on to the field to save the life of scrum half, Paul Bishop, after swallowing his tongue in a match against Oldham, at Wilderspool.

 

1985

Andy Gregory joins Warrington from Widnes in January. The deal of cash and John Fieldhouse was thought to be a world record transfer deal at the time.

In February the Club bans Phil Ford and Paul Cullen for two weeks and transfer listed for £45,000 and £20,000 respectively. Ford subsequently moves to Wigan for £40,000. In June Warrington pay Bradford Northern £40,000 for test forward Alan Rathbone. The following month the Wire recruit high scoring Manly back Phil Blake. In August Kiwi front rower Kevin Tamati is signed from Widnes. Warrington's signing spree is completed with the signature of St George full back Brian Johnson in September.

Mark Forster and Brian Carbert form the left wing partnership for Great Britain Under 21s in their 12-16 loss to New Zealand, at Bradford. Forster scored a try and Carbert kicked two goals.

Les Boyd makes his Warrington debut in the Lancashire Cup semi final against Widnes at Wilderspool in October. This was Boyd's first match following a fifteen month ban in Australia for gouging. In the final Warrington are beaten 34-8, by Wigan, after holding an 8-2 lead. A Brian Johnson try and two Brian Carbert goals are all they have to show for their efforts at St Helens in front of a crowd of 19,202.

Kevin Tamati was sin binned for five minutes, after coming on as a substitute for New Zealand in their 24-22 first Test victory over Great Britain, at Headingley. He also played at prop for New Zealand in the final Test, a 6-6 draw against Great Britain at Elland Road, Leeds.

 

1986

In January Alan Rathbone threatens to quit the game after being sent off for the second time that season. He received six match and two match bans for his two sending offs.

In March Reg Bowden resigns and Tony Barrow takes over as caretaker coach, with Les Boyd as his  assistant. On 18th March ten leading clubs, including Warrington met at Headingley, threatening a Super  League breakaway. The clubs wanted more direct influence and control of the game, plus a bigger share of the financial rewards. The breakaway was averted at the RFL Council meeting in May. When it was agreed to reduce the First Division to 14 clubs, cut the levy paid by top clubs from 15% to 8%, and increase prize funds.

Following a strong finish to the league Warrington reached the Premiership Trophy final after a 23-12 win at Wigan in the semi-final, Paul Bishop dropping five goals. The Wire met Champions Halifax at Elland Road,

Leeds in the final. Les Boyd inspired Warrington finish in complete control winning 38-10, before a crowd of 13,683. Man of the match Boyd scored two tries.

Bishop, Tamati, Jackson, Johnson and Forster also scored tries with Bishop kicking five goals.

In November, Andy Gregory played scrum half in the final Test against the Australians at Central Park. The Aussies won 24-15 to remain unbeaten.

Warrington fine scrum half Andy Gregory £250 and suspend him for two weeks for missing two training sessions. He refuses to pay and is transfer listed at £150,000 after requesting a transfer.

 

1987

Warrington took a winning run of 14 matches into the John Player Special Trophy final against Wigan at Burnden Park, Bolton. The absence of scrum half Bishop and injuries to forwards Tamati and Boyd did not help as the Wire slumped to a 418 defeat, before a crowd of 21,144.

In January Andy Gregory was transferred to Wigan for£130,000, a world record at the time.

Warrington played their home league match with Barrow at Maine Road on 19th January. This was due to Wilderspool being unfit. A crowd of 2,215 saw the Wire win 24-20.

Also in January Mark Forster scores a try, in his debut for Great Britain in their 52-4 win over France at  Leeds. Mike Gregory scored two tries from loose forward in the same match. Both players played in the return match in Carcassonne, the following month, which Great Britain won 20-10. Gregory threatens to sue the French Rugby League after sustaining a broken nose and cheekbone, from a vicious right hook by prop Jean-Luc Rabot.

In February, test winger, Des Drummond is signed from Leigh for a fee in excess of £40,000.

Despite their second half of the season slump, Warrington finished third and reached the first ever Stones Bitter Premiership final doubleheader. A Premiership record crowd of 38,756 at Manchester United's Old Trafford witnessed a dour final, in which Wigan beat Warrington 8-0.

In June Alan Rathbone is transferred to Leeds for £32,500. John Woods is signed from Bradford Northern for £40,000. Half back Paul Bishop causes an international row by signing a three-year contract with Cronulla. He had only been cleared to play in Sydney for the summer.

In August long serving forward Bob Eccles leaves Wilderspool for Springfield Borough, who pay the Wire £25,000 for his services.

In October an injury hit Warrington play their part in a memorable Lancashire Cup final before going down 28-16 to Wigan at St Helens, before a crowd of 20,237. Mark Forster with two and Mike Gregory score tries and John Woods kicked two goals.

Two weeks later, Des Drummond and John Woods represent Great Britain in their 42-0 win over Papua New Guinea. This is their first Test in Britain. Later the same month Warrington lose to the touring Auckland team 22-16 at Wilderspool. The Warrington side, devastated by injuries, put up a brave fight in front of 3,897 fans.

 

1988

The New Years Day clash with Wigan, at Wilderspool sees four players sent off and one sin binned in the first twenty minutes. Paul Cullen and Tony Humphries for the Wire and Andy Goodway and Adrian Shelford for Wigan received their marching orders. The match ended in a 15-15 draw. Both clubs were fined a record £3,000 for the brawl.

Later that month, Des Drummond scored the opening try in his final appearance for Great Britain, as they beat France 28-14 in Avignon.

In February Les Boyd announces his retirement after breaking his arm for the second time in the season.

Chris Rudd and Gary Chambers both sign from Kells. The "A" team won the Lancashire Shield by beating Swinton 21-19 at Wilderspool in the final.

Mike Gregory is selected for the Great Britain tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Des Drummond has to withdraw from the squad, due to legal proceedings alleging assault on a spectator following a brawl during the Premiership semi-final at Widnes. This brawl cost the Wire a record fine of £10,000. Four Warrington players, Mark Roberts, David Lyon, Barry Peters and Paul Cullen were also fined and suspended.

The Official Rugby League Hall of Fame was introduced to pay tribute to the game's select band of legendary players. Brian Bevan and Alex Murphy were two of the initial ten elite players so honoured.

Kevin Tamati retires from the New Zealand Test side after being appointed Warrington's first development officer, in June.

Mike Gregory plays in all five Tests on the Great Britain tour, scoring a try against Papua New Guinea and an 80-yard spectacular try in the shock third Test win over Australia, in Sydney 26-12.

In June Steve Roach joined Warrington from Balmain. He is followed in July by Phil Blake and Les Davidson from South Sydney.

France win 29-6, at Wilderspool, against Warrington, in October as part of their three match tour, with a display of running rugby in traditional Gallic style. Warrington win the British Coal Nines trophy, beating the Rest of the World 24-0 in the final, at Central Park. John Woods was the player of the tournament, shown on BBC TV's Sportsnight programme.

Tony Barrow resigns as coach in November, after a victory over Oldham. Barrow promptly signs a three and a half year contract to be coach at Oldham. Recently retired full back Brian Johnson is brought back from Australia to take over as coach at Wilderspool.

 

1989

Les Boyd is persuaded out of retirement in January to revive the Warrington season. A Boyd inspired Wire reach the Challenge Cup semi final, only to lose to Wigan at Maine Road, when a Joe Lydon 61 yard drop goal broke the Warrington hearts. Wigan won 13-6 before a crowd of 26,529, all Warrington's points coming from the boot of John Woods.

In June Warrington flew to America to play Wigan in an exhibition match in Milwaukee. Wigan won 12-5 in front of a crowd of 7,773. This match was the final time that Les Boyd wore the Primrose and Blue of Warrington. John Woods leaves Wilderspool to join Rochdale Hornets for £50,000.

On 3rd August the new scoreboard at the Fletcher Street end is used for the first time as England beat the Irish 65-12, in the Student World Cup. Kevin Tamati leaves his post as reserve team coach to become head coach at bottom of the table Salford. With the gates closed on a Wilderspool full house of 10,200, Wire displayed excellent form to dominate Widnes 28-6, in the Lancashire Cup semi-final. The previous week Widnes, had been crowned World Champions following their defeat of Canberra Raiders.

Mike Gregory lifts the Lancashire Cup after a 24-16 win over Oldham, at St Helens. Two try Bob Jackson is the hero. Joe Ropati and Mark Forster also score tries and Rocky Turner kicks four goals. Playmaker Greg Mackey signs for Hull after the match, much to the dismay of everyone at Wilderspool.

Mike Gregory is appointed Great Britain captain for the three Test series against New Zealand. Great Britain lose the first Test 16-24, but win the other two 26-6 and 10-6. Kiwis Duane Mann and Gary Mercer sign for Warrington after the tour.

The RFL Tribunal rules that David Myers is contracted to Warrington. They order Warrington pay £80,000 to Widnes. £35,000 immediately, £20,000 after 25 appearances and £25,000 after a further 30 matches.

 

1990

On 14th March, Paul Cullen is sent off at St Helens and given an eight match ban which forces him out of the Challenge Cup semi-final and subsequently the final at Wembley. The match at St Helens was a replay of the match on 1st March, which was abandoned after 4 minutes when part of the stand roof blew off at Knowsley Road.

Mike Gregory played for Great Britain in the two Tests against France. The first was an 8-4 win in Perpignan and the second a shock 18-25 defeat at Headingley. Mark Thomas inspired Warrington to beat Second

Division Oldham 10-6 in the Challenge Cup semi-final at Wigan. Tries from Martin Crompton and Mark Forster see the Wires through to Wembley.

In the final Warrington were well beaten by Wigan 14-36. Mike Gregory played a captain's role scoring a try and making one for David Lyon. A crowd of 77,729 paid a world record £1,360,000 to watch Wires seventh and last visit to Wembley.

In May Warrington sign Wales B scrum half Kevin Ellis from Bridgend.

Mike Gregory is appointed Great Britain captain for the tour of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Gregory led Great Britain in all five Tests, an 18-20 defeat to Papua New Guinea was followed by a 40-4 victory. A thrilling Test series with New Zealand was won 2-1, Great Britain won the first two, 11-10 and 16-14, whilst the Kiwis gained consolation winning the last match 21-18. Dave Lyon joined the tour party as a replacement, scoring tries in both of his non-Test appearances.

In July former Great Britain centre Ronnie Duane moved to Oldham.

Warrington play their final Lancashire Cup match at Wilderspool, when they beat Chorley 36-8 in the first round before a crowd of 3,143. The Lancashire Cup went on for two more seasons but Warrington were not drawn at home again.

In September Warrington make three big signings, Australian Chris O'Sullivan is followed by Wales Rugby

Union internationals centre Allan Bateman and forward Rowland Phillips, both from Neath for £100,000 each. The touring Australians visited Wilderspool, on Halloween and were met by a highly competitive Warrington side. Two tries in the last three minutes gave a distorted scoreline of 6-26. Tony Thorniley score the home try and Dave Lyon kicked the goal, before a sell-out crowd of 10,200. Mike Gregory played his first game for the Wire since the Wembley Cup final, because of injury. Mike Gregory made his final Great Britain Test appearance as a substitute in the final Test against Australia. The Aussies won 14-0 at Elland Road, Leeds, to clinch the three Test series, 2-1.

In December, injury ridden Warrington pulled off a major shock by defeating in-form Widnes 8-4 to reach the Regal Trophy final. Extra time looked likely when Chris Rudd crossed for the winning try in the dying seconds.

 

1991

In January, Warrington won their last major trophy, with skipper, Des Drummond lifting the Regal Trophy in a 12-2 win over Bradford Northern at Leeds. A dour forward battle was finally settled by a last minute try from substitute, Mark Thomas. Dave Lyon kicked four goals and Billy McGinty took the man of the match award.

In February Kevin Ellis made his sole Great Britain appearance when he was substitute in the 60-4 win over France at Headingley.

A nail-biting 22-14 home win against Oldham, in the penultimate league match ensured First Division survival, and relegated Oldham.

On 3rd June Brian Bevan died of cancer in a Southport hospital, he was only 66. His death was even reported in the House of Commons. On 21st July 1991 the main stand was named the "Brian Bevan Stand" in memory of the great Australian.

In August Wigan paid Warrington £60,000 for second row forward Billy McGinty. The same month the seats in front of the Leisure Centre are removed and replaced by a standing terrace.

In October Warrington sign Kiwi international stand-off Kelly Shelford and seventeen year-old full-back Lee Penny.

A serious knee injury at Castleford on 23rd Octoberthreatens to end Mike Gregory's career.

 

1992

In February the talk of a Super League was raised again, when the top clubs met. They again wanted a greater say in the running of the game, a bigger share of the television money and a reduction in the 8% levy.

Allan Bateman wins his first Great Britain cap, when he is selected at centre against the French, at the Boulevard, Hull.

Warrington's reserve team, the Wizards, won the Alliance Lancashire Combination Shield by beating Whitehaven 32-8 in the final.

In May the League agree a record £3m four year deal with BSkyB for exclusive coverage of the Stones Bitter Championship and Premiership, featuring live Friday night football. Half back Kevin Ellis is selected for the Great Britain tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

In August the League Tribunal fix the price of scrum half, Martin Crompton's move to Wigan at £65,000, plus a further £20,000 if he is capped for Great Britain. St Helens pay the Club a then record fee for a full-back of £90,000 for David Lyon.

Sky Sports cameras together with their commentary duo of Eddie and Stevo paid their first visit to Wilderspool on 9th October for the match with Bradford Northern. The game which Warrington lost 4-22 also marked the first game played under the new floodlights. Winger Neil Kenyon scored the only home try.

On 13th October, Wilderspool smallest first team crowd of 1,412 watch Warrington beat Blackpool Gladiators 32-8 in the Regal Trophy preliminary round. Full back, Lee Penny makes a scoring debut.

On 23rd November the RFL introduced a controversial rule change, almost without notice, that saw the offside distance at the play-the-ball increase from five to ten metres.

 

1993

In May Warrington won the Academy Challenge Cup final by beating Hull 19-12 at Old Trafford, before the Premiership Final.

The Club list thirteen players in June at an asking price of £340,000, after offering lower contract payments.

In July Jonathan Davies joins the Club for no transfer fee, after the Wire agree to take over his contract payments from cash-strapped Widnes. One month later Iestyn Harris signs from amateur club Oldham St Annes. The same month, prop forward Neil Harmon moves to Leeds for £65,000, Craig Teitzel, from Illawarra replaces him.

Warrington Borough Council erected a £20,000 statute of Brian Bevan, the unveiling ceremony being performed by Brian's widow accompanied by actor and screenwriter Colin Welland on 29th August 1993. The plaque below the statute chronicles Brian Eyrl Bevan's remarkable contribution to the sport - played 688 games, scoring a world record 796 tries from 1945 until ending his career (with Blackpool Borough) in 1964. Amazingly, although he played 16 times for Other Nationalities, scoring 29 tries in the process, the great man never once put on the Green and Gold jersey ofhis country.

Seventeen year-old Iestyn Harris is called into the Welsh squad to play New Zealand, before he has made his debut for Warrington. Harris does not play in the match but Allan Bateman, Jonathan Davies, Kevin Ellis and Rowland Phillips all play in a battling Welsh performance that sees them lose 19-24.

Jonathan Davies played full back in all three Tests as Great Britain "whitewash" the Kiwis. Davies scored a try, 10 goals and 2 drop goals in the series. Lee Penny and Iestyn Harris both played for Great Britain under 21s in their 24-37 defeat to the tourists.

 

1994

On 2nd January, the gates are locked at Wilderspool with a crowd of 11,379 inside and a further 2,000 outside. Referee Russell Smith's controversial last minute penalty against Warrington in the derby match with Wigan, not only costs the Wire the match 8-6, but proves decisive in determining the championship, which Wigan eventually win on points difference from Bradford and Warrington.

In February Jonathan Davies skippered the Great Britain World Sevens team to Australia. Britain were knocked out in the first round, but won the Plate consolation series.

Friday 22nd April, Warrington are champions for a day 6,031 delirious fans watch Warrington defeat Sheffield Eagles, at Wilderspool 36-18 to go top of the league.

However wins, first by Bradford over Leeds on Saturday and then by Wigan over Oldham, on Sunday, saw  the Wire drop down to finish in third on points difference. All three teams finished on 46 points, with 23 wins from 30 matches.

Warrington's reserve team finished as champions of the Alliance league. Jonathan Davies is awarded the Stones Bitter Man of Steel for inspiring the Wire to joint top in the league and

starring for Great Britain at full-back in the whitewash of the Kiwis. He was also voted First Division Player of the Year by his fellow players.

Five of the Club's academy team are selected for the first ever Great Britain academy tour of Australia; Iestyn Harris, Mark Hilton, Lee Penny, Jon Roper and Mike Wainwright. All five make at least one international appearance against the Aussies.

On 30th August sees the release of the RFL's commissioned "Framing the Future" report. It called for a soccer-style Premier League and the merger of some clubs. The report stated that there were too many clubs in too small an area for the game to be marketed properly. The RFL put forward several revolutionary

proposals for the clubs to consider; a 15 club Premier League, stringent minimum facility standards, two lower divisions of 8 clubs, the introduction of a salary cap, reduction in the overseas quota from three to two.

Loose forward and former captain Mike Gregory is transferred to Salford for £35,000, before the new season kicked off.

In October Paul Sculthorpe is signed from Oldham amateur club, Waterhead.

A piece of individual brilliance from Jonathan Davies, playing at full-back, to score the try that gives Great Britain a famous against-the-odds victory 8-4 over Australia at Wembley.

In November Allan Langer captains the Australian tourists to a 24-0 victory over Warrington, on their final visit to Wilderspool, The match also proves to be the final attendance in excess of 10,000, with 10,587 spectators watching the match. This was the first time in fifteen tour encounters that the tourists had nilled the Wire.

Welsh internationals Kevin Ellis and Rowland Phillips join Workington Town on loan for the rest of the season. New Australian club North Queensland Cowboys announce the signing of Wire star player Jonathan

Davies on a two-year £185,000 contract. This is quickly followed by Warrington announcing that Davies had signed a new two-year deal to stay at Wilderspool, featuring a summer spell Down Under.

 

1995

Jonathan Davies is awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List.

A capacity crowd of 19,636 witnessed the first major final to be staged at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium,

when Wigan beat Warrington 40-10 to secure the Regal Trophy. Warrington were always second best to a strong Wigan side, who now had all of the game's major prizes in their trophy cabinet.

In February the RFL Council agree to introduce the Salary Cap, starting with 50% of income being allocated for spending on players, being reduced to 40% within two years.

On 1st March, the disciplinary procedure of referees putting players on report is introduced and In-goal judges are used for the first time.

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