Rugby’s first Wembley finalists: In 1929, Dewsbury became the first rugby club to qualify for a final at Wembley Stadium.

 

Rugby’s first six-tackle champions: In 1973, Dewsbury became the first club to win the Championship under the newly-introduced six-tackle rule.

 

The beginning

The club was formed in 1875 following a meeting at the Little Saddle Inn on 22nd October 1875.

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The first fixture was played near Sugar Field, adjacent to the Crown Flatt ground, featuring a team consisting of seven committee members. The club soon realised they needed a ground and the following year secured a sub-tenancy at Crown Flatt for £20.

1881 saw the club’s first success in the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, beating Huddersfield, Bradford and Halifax, before an Alfred Newsome drop goal gave them victory over Wakefield in the Final.

Crown Flatt was rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best-equipped grounds in Yorkshire, and this was further enhanced when the club purchased the famous “Noah’s Ark” stand at a cost of £250.

Two years later, however, the club amalgamated into the Dewsbury and Saville and Dewsbury United Clerks Cricket club.

The Yorkshire Senior Competition (YSC) was formed in 1892 and Dewsbury became members, but the club struggled and finished in the bottom three due to financial problems.

It therefore came as a big surprise that, at that famous meeting at the George Hotel, Dewsbury were the only members of the YSC not to agree to form the Northern Union.

They elected to remain in the YSC and marginally improved their position in the league to 10th. Next season, however, they were back at the bottom.

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A new start

On 21st April 1898, a historic meeting was held at the Black Bull public house to consider the possibility of forming a new Northern Union club.

The question was discussed at some length, and more than £100 in donations were promised.

Ironically, it was local rivals Batley who helped Dewsbury gain election to the Northern Union.

They were fully supportive of Dewsbury’s bid and were excited at the prospect of rekindling the famous Heavy Woollen rivalry.

At a subsequent discussion at the parish church school on 5 May, it was announced that members of the committee had met with Mr Lipscomb, agent to Lord Savile, and had signed an agreement to lease the Crown Flatt estate as from 1 July 1898.

The next month, red, amber and black were adopted as club’s colours.

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On 3 September 1898, the players travelled to Normanton for their first ever Northern Union match, where they were beaten 3–16.

The first home game took place the very next Saturday, with visitors Kinsley emerging victorious by a margin of 13–5. For the rest of the season, the team played in Yorkshire No. 2 Competition.

In 1901–02 the Lancashire and Yorkshire leagues were combined to form a second division. Dewsbury was one of the new teams to join the second division.

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Early success

The club’s first major success came in 1912, when they beat Oldham 8–5 in the Challenge Cup Final at Headingley.

The club went on to achieve more success in the years that followed, finishing champions in the 1915-16 and 1916-17 seasons, and being able to attract players and crowds due to the town’s prominence as a manufacturer of woollen cloth for uniforms.

They beat the visiting Australasian team of the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain, 13–6.

When, in 1922, the Northern Union renamed itself the Rugby Football League, the club adopted the title of Dewsbury Rugby Football Club.

In 1929, Dewsbury had the honour of playing in the first Wembley Challenge Cup final, losing 13–2 to Wigan. Their appearance in this final was commemorated with a parade at the last final ever to take place at the stadium just before the turn of the century.

Managed by Eddie Waring, Dewsbury enjoyed huge success during the Second World War, when their side was boosted by the inclusion of a number of big-name guest players.

Dewsbury won the Wartime Emergency League in 1941–42, and again the following season, though that championship was declared null and void when it was discovered they had fielded an ineligible player. They were also runners-up in 1943–44.

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Post war years

Vic Hey was player/coach of Dewsbury from 1944 to 1947, and in the first full season after the war, a new record transfer fee of £1,650 was set when Dewsbury bought full-back Bill Davies from Huddersfield.

James “Jimmy” Ledgard left Dewsbury for a record fee of £2,650 in January 1948, when he was bought by Leigh.

Dewsbury’s first Championship title came in the 1972/73 season, when they beat high-flying Leeds in the play-off final at Odsal Stadium, 22-13.

Dewsbury, captained by Mike Stephenson, could only manage an eighth-place finishing in the league, but, for the final time until their reintroduction in 1998, the title was to be decided through a series of play-offs, in which they defeated Oldham, Featherstone and Warrington on their way to the Grand Final.

Many people argued about the validity of the centenary celebrations held in 1975, contesting that the centenary should not have been held until 1998.

The club struggled to continue its success in the years following 1973, and a number of star players departed.

The club did enjoy promotion to the top level of Rugby League in the late 80s, but has since operated in the second and third divisions.

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‘New’ Crown Flatt

On 13 September 1988, at about 4pm, three youths deliberately set fire to the historic wooden Crown Flatt stand, which was erected in 1914.

The stand was in excellent condition, considering the club had just spent £25,000 bringing it up to the required safety standards.

The tragedy is that the stand was not the only thing lost.

The club also lost everything gathered over the past 113 years, including programmes, records and memorabilia.

However, instead of dwelling on the past, the club looked to the future and built a new state of the art stadium in the Shaw Cross area of Dewsbury.

While the new ground was being built, the club played their home games at Mount Pleasant, home to the Batley Bulldogs.

The club played their first home game at the New Crown Flatt Stadium, on 6th September 1994 in front of a packed house against Barrow, a match they in which they were victorious by an astounding scoreline of 82-6.

The stadium has since been developed further thanks to the construction of a Eastern Terrace, electronic scoreboard and extra turnstile facilities.

The area around the ground has also been renovated to include a modern 4G training pitch and smaller multi-use games areas, which regularly host five-a-side football and training sessions.

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The new millennium

Having adopted the new nickname in 1996, the ‘Rams’ have enjoyed a high level of success in recent years.

Under head coach Neil Kelly, they finished top of the Northern Ford Premiership for two consecutive seasons, in 1999 and 2000, and won the Grand Final and Trans-Pennine Cup in 2000.

But despite the Rams’ sustained success, they were denied entry due to an insufficient stadium capacity.

The club proposed ground sharing with Sheffield Eagles, playing home games at their Don Valley Stadium, while Dewsbury’s stadium was improved, but this idea was rejected by the RFL.

Financial issues and on-field struggles followed, and the club relegated to Rugby League’s third tier for the first time in ten years, before being promoted, relegated and then promoted again back into the Championship, where the club club currently competes.

In 2009, Dewsbury Rams became only the second club  to win every game during a regular league season.

In 2015, the club adopted an official ‘song’, based on the popular ‘Amber Ribbon’ terrace chant, and recorded by local band, Gawthorpe Brass ’85.

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Club honours

Division 2 Championship: 1904/05
Challenge Cup: 1911/12, 1942/43
Yorkshire Cup Runners-up: 1918/19, 1921/22, 1940/41, 1972/73
Yorkshire Cup: 1925/26, 1927/28, 1942/43
Championship: 1972/73
Yorkshire League: 1975/76
NFP Grand Finalists: 1999
NFP League Leaders: 1999, 2000
Northern Ford Premiership: 2000
Trans-Pennine Cup: 2000
National League Two Grand Finalists: 2005
National League Two Champions: 2006
Co-operative Championship One Champions: 2009

Club records

Biggest victory: 90-5 (v Blackpool, 4th April 1993)
Biggest defeat: 82-0 (v Widnes, 30th November 1986)
Highest attendance (‘Old’ Crown Flatt): 26,584 (v Halifax, 30th October 1920)
Highest attendance (The Tetley’s Stadium): 4,068 (v Bradford Bulls, 6th April 2015)

Player records

Goal in a match: 13 by Greg Pearce v Blackpool Gladiators on 4 April 1993, and by Francis Maloney vs Hunslet Hawks on 25 March 2007
Tries in a match: 8 by Dai Thomas v Liverpool on 13 April 1907
Points in a match: 32 by Les Holliday v Barrow on 11 September 1994

Goals in a season: 170 by Barry Eaton in 2000
Tries in a season: 40 by Dai Thomas in 1906/07
Points in a season: 398 by Barry Eaton in 2000

Career appearances: 454 by Joe Lyman (1913 to 1931)
Career goals: 863 by Nigel Stephenson (1967–78 and 1984–86)
Career tries: 144 by Joe Lyman (1913 to 1931)

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