St Helens RFC

Introduction

St Helens RFC are one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated rugby teams. They participate in the Super League, a competition in which they have had immense success, and enjoy a longstanding rivalry with the nearby team of Wigan Warriors.

History

Early Years

St Helens RFC was founded in 1873 and are subsequently one of the oldest teams in the rugby football league. They have been based at their team headquarters and grounds of Knowsley Road since their inception. The Saints, as they are colloquially known, were one of the 22 teams to leave the original Rugby Football Union and join the Northern Union in 1895. They achieved a number of notable successes during the 19th century, most prominently reaching the finals of the inaugural Challenge Cup (now known as the Carnegie Challenge Cup) in 1897. The match against Batley, which took place at the historic Headingley grounds, resulted in a defeat for the Saints.

Post-War Achievements

The post-war years marked a particularly successful period for St Helens RFC. Jim Sullivan took over as team coach during the 1950s and was instrumental in their incredible success over the following years. One of the Saints’ most remarkable achievements was the defeat they inflicted on the touring Australian national side in November 1956. The Saints made a habit of inflicting heavy blows on visiting national teams from the southern hemisphere. They subjected the touring New Zealand side to a staggering 28-7 defeat during the 1967 season – the most significant defeat they suffered during their England tour.

It is widely accepted that some of the Saints’ finest moments came during the 1960s and the 1970s, for example when winning the Super League and Challenge Cup titles in 1966. In particular, their success came as a result of the exploits of a number of rugby legends, including the likes of Tom van Vollenhoven and Alex Murphy.

The 1970s saw the Saints win the Challenge Cup on two further occasions. Challenge Cup success was, however, limited during the 1980s. They lost in a shock defeat to Halifax in 1987. This match, which took place at London’s Wembley Stadium, saw the Saints lose 19-18

Recent Success

St Helens have enjoyed spectacular form since the formation of the Super League. This coincided with the switch to a summer season for domestic championships – the winter season being allocated for international tournaments. To date, St Helens have won the Super League on five different occasions and have also won the Challenge Cup on six other occasions.

Under the leadership of Ian Millward, who took over as coach in 2000, St Helens became one of the most exciting rugby teams to watch in the world. Their aggressive attitude and determination drew huge crowds and greatly benefited the media moguls who had invested millions of pounds in the Super League and Challenge Cup.

Even with Millward exiting in 2005, the success continued under Daniel Anderson. In 2006, the Saints proved victorious yet again during the Challenge Cup and, that December, they won the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Team Award in recognition of Anderson’s achievements with the team. Saints held on the Challenge Cup in 2007, beating the Catalans Dragons 30-8 at Wembley Stadium.

Controversy

St Helens have experienced their fair share of controversy during their long and successful history. In 2004, two St Helens players Sean Long and Martin Gleeson, were implicated in a betting scandal. It was alleged that they had bet on their side losing after coach Millward fielded a substantially weakened team in a match against Bradford in the spring of 2004. The off the pitch problems appeared to resurface in 2005, when Ian Millward lost his job as team coach after being suspended for gross misconduct.

Team Attire

During their early days as a team, St Helens RFC sported a rather fetching blue and white kit. It consisted of a blue and white striped jersey and blue shorts. This kit was soon abandoned however, and the team adopted the kit that they would retain until the mid 1960s.

During this period, team members sported white jerseys with a large red stripe running across the chest and sleeves, together with white shorts. The team kit was redesigned during the 1960s though and the Saints’ shirts are now white, save for a large red ‘v’ across the front of jersey.

Future

St Helens’ achievements within national and international competitions has meant that the side has now become a clear force to be reckoned with. It is likely that their success will continue well into the future, especially as the team have once again fielded a strong side for the 2008 season. Plans are also afoot to revamp the Saints’ stadium. Developers hope to construct a 18,000 square foot stadium away from Knowsley Road. It is hoped that this development will help to further enhance the image of this highly successful rugby team. The existing St Helens RFC ground will be transformed into cost-effective housing for the local community. In this way, team officials hope that they will be able to give something back to a town which has consistently supported them for almost 125 years.

Honours List

World Club Challenge – Winners (2001, 2007)

Championship (including Super League) – Winners (1931-32, 1952-53, 1958-59, 1965-66, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1974-75, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006)

Challenge Cup – Winners (1955-56, 1960-61, 1965-66, 1971-72, 1975-76, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007)

League Leader’s Shield – Winners (1964-65, 1965-66, 2005, 2006, 2007)

Premiership – Winners (1975-76, 1976-77, 1984-85, 1992-93)

BBC2 Floodlit Trophy – Winners (1971-72, 1975-76)

BBC Sports Team Of The Year – Winners (2006)

Contact Information

Knowsley Road Stadium
Dunriding Lane
WA10 4AD
Tel: 0870 756 5252
Web: St. Helens RFC