The birth of The Super League in 1996 saw many teams adjust there names. Bradford Northern became Bulls, Leeds we’re now Rhinos, Oldham became Bears, Wigan added the Warriors and Warrington were now Wolves.
One club outside the razzmatazz of Super League who already had a fantastic name famous were Rochdale Hornets. One of my favourite kits in rugby league there traditional colours are a beautiful sight.
It’s been a good few years since Rochdale’s last season in the top flight but the club has a very deep proud history in the sport.
Challenge Cup Winners in 1922 the clubs real rise to fame came around forty years later. Fiji seems a world away from a smoggy Lancashire mill town, where the cotton trade and canals provided the back drop of working class life.
Rochdale Hornets brought in a Fijian contingent in the early 1960s, starting with Orisi Dawai and Josefa Levula in 1961 and, later Aspia Toga. This has resulted in Rochdale having the largest Fijian community in the UK, outside of London. The town still has huge connections with Fiji and just recently in the Rugby League World Cup of 2013 when Ireland played Fiji at Spotland Stadium the match was a sell out with over 9,000 people packing the ground out.
Legendary broadcaster Eddie Waring with Rochdale’s Fijian stars of the 60s.
Rochdale Hornets have one of the largest past players associations. There annual dinner is a fantastic event. I was lucky to be invited to the 2019 event at Rochdale Golf club by my friend Brett Garside who played for Hornets in the 1980s. It was a special night and it was great to see so many legends of the club in attendance including Mike Ratu senior and Emon Ratu along with Tony Gourley, Mick Henighan, Billy Sheffield and Alan Hodkinson who represented Salford in there playing days.
In more recent years Rochdale Hornets have had success with promotions.
Bobbie Goulding arrived as player-coach in December 2003. He was in charge of Rochdale Hornets for two seasons, twice being nominated for coach of the year.
In 2013 Rochdale Hornets appointed Ian Talbot as head coach. He led Hornets to their first trophy in 91 years when they won the Kingstone Press Championship 1 play-off final defeating local rivals Oldham. Ian Talbot stood down as head coach at Hornets at the end of the 2015 season to take up a position at St. Helens.
Talbot’s replacement was Alan Kilshaw.
In Alan Kilshaws 1st season (2016) Rochdale Hornets defeated Toulouse Olympique XIII in the promotion final in Toulouse, France to become Kingstone Press League 1 Champions. This was the 1st time Rochdale Hornets had been Champions of a division since 1919, a gap of 97 years.
Rochdale is a very proud town with some wonderful scenery, if you’ve never been to Hollingsworth lake it’s well worth a visit. Just like Salford, Hornets have a whole host of other attractions around Greater Manchester to compete with. This community club though has some real stalwart supporters who work there socks off to keep the club going on limited resources.
The seven sisters flats dominate the Rochdale skyline.
Home record since 1969/70
Salford 41 Rochdale 0 1969/70
Salford 18 Rochdale 9 1970/71
Salford 15 Rochdale 17 1971/72 (floodlit cup)
Salford 46 Rochdale 13 1972/73 (Lancashire cup)
Salford 30 Rochdale 7 1972/73
Salford 10 Rochdale 14 1972/73 (top 16 playoff)
Salford 24 Rochdale 3 1973/74 (Lancashire cup)
Salford 24 Rochdale 16 1973/74
Salford 18 Rochdale 0 1974/75
Salford 33 Rochdale 6 1976/77
Salford 27 Rochdale 8 1977/78 (John player Trophy)
Salford 25 Rochdale 7 1978/79 (John player Trophy)
Salford 4 Rochdale 13 1978/79
Salford 7 Rochdale 2 1981/82
Salford 26 Rochdale 11 1982/83
Salford 36 Rochdale 1 1984/85
Salford 18 Rochdale 12 1985/86 (John player Trophy)
Salford 52 Rochdale 12 1989/90 ( Lancashire cup)
Salford 41 Rochdale 12 1990/91 (Lancashire cup)
Salford 44 Rochdale 4 1995
Salford 36 Rochdale 16 1996
Salford 58 Rochdale 16 2003 ( Rail cup)
Salford 58 Rochdale 18 2003
Salford 68 Rochdale 0 2008 ( rail cup)
They played for both
Over the years there has been plenty of player movement between the two clubs and the list of players to represent both teams is huge. I’ve listed a few below;
Steve Gibson, Wayne Reid, Bob Marsden, Ian Watson, Tony Gourley, John Butler, Mick Henighan, Simon Baldwin, Greg Austin, Gavin Bennion, Rodney Bowker, Cliff Eccles, David Fell, Carl Forster, Ian Gormley, Andy Gorski, Iain Maccorquodale, Paul Southern, Anthony Stewart, Simon Svabic, Phil Waring, Colin Whitfield, Roy Wiltshire and Mick Worrall.
Young Rochdale Coach Carl Forster has played for both clubs.
A match to remember 15th September 1982.
Salford 26 Rochdale Hornets 11.
After the glory years of the 1970s a new look Salford side embarked on the journey of the 80s.
Relegation from the top flight at the end of the 1980/81 season was a disappointment but there was an exciting crop of young talent on show at The Willows. Ged Byrne, Paul Fletcher, Paul Groves, Paul O Neil, Ronnie Smith, Trevor Stockley and Stuart Williams had now all broken through in to the first team. There was still plenty of experience in the squad from the famous 70s side with Mike Coulman, Keith Fielding, Steve Nash and Maurice Richards.
This match at The Willows in September 1982 was another solid performance from Salford. Tries from O Neil, Williams, Byrne and Smith saw a comfortable 25-11 victory.
The good form continued in to the second half of the season in 1983 and promotion back to the First Division was sealed.
With 24 victories from 32 league matches a third place finish behind Wakefield and champions Fulham capped off a successful campaign.
A league double over local rivals Swinton and a Challenge cup victory over top flight Side Leigh were also memorable matches in the season.
A try scorer in 1982, a fresh faced Ged Byrne.
The Challenge cup break is just what Salford need after four successive league defeats. Super league is a tough competition where the consistency is needed week in week out. Salford’s cup run of 2017 certainly captured the supporters imagination. A semi final defeat against Wigan denying Salford a place at Wembley. Last season The Red Devil’s were beaten at the first hurdle against Leigh.
Rochdale Hornets have a difficult assignment in 2019 to try and survive in what is a very competitive Championship Division. Toronto and Toulouse have set the pace and newly promoted Bradford and York have also impressed in the opening few months of the season. Leigh, Widnes , Featherstone and Halifax are among the other front runners and so far Sheffield have been a real surprise package.
With one victory from Hornets first seven matches the race is on to avoid relegation.
Salford have lost four games on the trot and will be looking for a morale boosting victory on Friday night. Hornets certainly have nothing to lose and will want to be as competitive as possible. The experienced Scott Moore will be lining up for the visitors and has impressed in recent weeks. Stuart Howarth is a former Salford player along with player coach Carl Forster.
Talented scrum half Dan Abram is a player to keep an eye on and well travelled winger Shaun Ainscough knows where the try line is.
After last Sunday’s disappointing defeat against Hull Ian Watson is poised to make changes in the Salford line up and it will be interesting to see what his Starting thirteen looks like come kick off.
The Challenge Cup and the road to Wembley starts here for Salford.
Safe travels and enjoy the game everyone.