IT’S 100 years since the first Law Cup was contested as a pre-season warm-up match between Oldham and neighbours Rochdale Hornets, but fans will have to wait another 12 months to celebrate the centenary because the traditional, hotly-contested derby will not take place this year.
The decision to put the Law Cup on hold until 2022 has been made jointly by both clubs because of logistical problems caused by the fact that Oldham are scheduled to start the 2021 campaign with a Challenge Cup tie on March 21, while Hornets won’t play until Betfred League 1 kicks-off in early May.
Moreover, Hornets are not allowed to start contact training until March and the latest possible weekend date would be March 14, which wouldn’t give them time to prepare adequately.
March 14 also happens to be Mothers’ Day — traditionally a day which causes fans to have other commitments — but the main reason for the decision is the lack of reasonable time for Hornets to do enough contact training before going into a physical game.
In a joint statement released by both clubs, Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton said:
“Because we are in different divisions with different start dates both for playing and training, we are faced by complications that we don’t normally have.
“Following discussions with Hornets, we have had to reluctantly agree jointly to put the Law Cup on hold for this year and to aim for a game on our home ground in 2022 when we hope the sporting world will be in a better position and we will be able to have fans inside the ground cheering on their teams.”
Rochdale chief executive Steve Kerr said :
“We are naturally disappointed that the Law Cup can’t be organised this year, as we know how much fans enjoy the occasion.
“However, Oldham are returning to training earlier than us. We are not permitted to return to stage 2 (full contact) training until the beginning of March , which doesn’t give us enough time to prepare for a game in mid-March, some seven weeks before we are due to return to action in League 1.
“Our focus is fully on the League 1 campaign and on giving Matt (Calland) the time to prepare his squad for the challenge ahead.”
Oldham chairman Chris added:
“We looked at the possibility of playing the Law Cup as usual this time, and streaming the game, because we know how much it means to both sets of fans, but in the end we had to accept that Hornets didn’t have enough time to prepare anyway, given that they are now allowed to do any contact training until March 1.
“We are allowed only one warm-up match this year, so we are now looking for an alternative fixture which, in all probability, will need to be against another Championship club.”
If the fates allow the Law Cup match to actually take place this year, here are a few facts to consider:
After a 0 – 0 draw at the Athletic Grounds on May 7th 1921, Oldham became the first recipients by winning the replay 12 – 2 at Watersheddings on May 13th with Joe Ferguson the first winning captain to hold the cup aloft.
Oldham retained the trophy on September 9th 1922 when Herman Hilton captained the Roughyeds to a 12 – 8 triumph, scoring a try in the process.
A year later the Hornets registered their first success by securing a 13 – 5 victory at the Athletic Grounds.
Full-back Tommy Rees and prop forward Jack Read both appeared in eleven Law Cup encounters for Oldham.
Bryn Goldswain was the Oldham captain on five occasions with Sid Rix and Martin Murphy leading the team four times each.
Last season’s skipper Gareth Owen was the captain in 2017, 2019 and 2020 and would have probably equalled Rix and Murphy but for injury ruling him out in 2018 when the honour fell to Danny Langtree.
The largest attendance was in 1926 when 14,000 saw Oldham easy winners 34 – 0 at Watersheddings with ex-Hornet Joe Corsi the star of the show with a hat-trick performance.
The mid 1950s was good spell for the “Nets” with victories in 1953 & 1955 with the 1954 match ending in a draw with Rochdale retaining the trophy and there was a shock in 1958 when the star-studded, high flying Roughyeds were humbled 25 – 10 at the Athletic Grounds.
Three Oldham players; Irving Barraclough, Bernard Ganley and Johnny Noon have kicked seven goals in a Law Cup match and in 1961 while ‘Noonie” was landing those goals, Frank Pitchford set the tries record with four touchdowns.
It is perhaps appropriate that on August 29th 2020, exactly 125 years since the formation of the Northern Union / Rugby League at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, Joseph Platt the first secretary of the then new sporting body was inducted into the Rugby League – Roll of Honour. He is the first person to be posthumously so honoured.
Joe served as secretary of the league for 25 years and was an official / vice president at Oldham for over forty years having first being elected to the committee in 1885
The Oldham Chairman Chris Hamilton was there to receive the award from the CEO of the Rugby Football League, Ralph Rimmer at the special 125th anniversary event at the George Hotel.
History tells us that Joseph Platt was a tireless worker on behalf of Oldham F.C. and all things Rugby League and the award is long overdue.
The Infirmary Cup (Law Cup) was first contested between Oldham and Rochdale Hornets in May 1921. The trophy was donated by the Rochdale MP, the Right Hon A. J. Law with the proceeds of the match being given over to the infirmaries in the two towns.
After a 0 – 0 draw at the Athletic Grounds on May 7th, Oldham became the first recipients by winning the replay 12 – 2 at Watersheddings on May 13th with Joe Ferguson the first winning captain to hold the cup aloft.
The competition would subsequently become a pre or early season event and when, as in 1954 and 1976, the match ended in a draw the cup was retained by the current holders.
Watch this space for further updates and Law Cup facts.
Due to a decision by the Rugby League Record Keepers club to include some fixtures from the 1918-19 season as senior matches, Joe Ferguson, Oldham’s record appearance maker has had his total increased to 631.
There were four matches played in March / April 1919 that originally had their status changed from senior fixtures to “friendlies”. However, for record keeping purposes these games have now been declared good to count towards official statistics.
The matches were as follows:
St Helens Recs.
March 15th 1919
April 18th 1919
April 19th 1919
April 21th 1919
Joe played in all four matches and the other players affected are as follows:
4 matches: Alf Wood, Jim Parkinson, Danny Thompson, Rod Marlor and Herman Hilton.
3 matches: Tom Fitton, Ernest Forshaw, Harry Carter and Bill Biggs.
2 matches: Billy Hall, Evan Davies, Ned Thomas and Tom Taylor.
1 Match: George Cook, Joel Tetlow, George Evans, Robert Duff, Hallam Fenton, Dave Holland, Jack Wiltshire and J Foster.
These are the points that have been added to their totals:
Alf Wood: 7 goals – 14 points.
Jim Parkinson & Herman Hilton: 3 tries – 9 points.
Tom Fitton & Danny Thompson: 2 tries – 6 points.
Evan Davies, Ned Thomas, Joe Ferguson, Ernest Forshaw, Bill Biggs & Jack Wiltshire: 1 try – 3 points.
The Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust have added to the website a video of the match against Batley on January 10th 1982. This is the oldest match for which we have extended footage (44 minutes). The match was played at Boundary Park due to Watersheddings being snowbound for several weeks. There is no commentary but the ambient crowd noise is present. The Oldham team was as follows:
Alan Taylor, Geoff Munro, Brian Caffery, Mic Parrish, Phil Ward, Ashley McEwen, Paddy Kirwan, Brian Hogan, Alan McCurrie, Adrian Alexander, Bob Mordell, Mick Worrall, Terry Flanagan.
SUBS: Ray Ashton, Alan Platt.
Does anyone out there have any footage older than this? In the same season Oldham played Hull at Headingley in the semi-final of the John Player trophy on November 29th 1981. This match was screened live by the BBC. Does anyone have a tape of this match or any that are older? If so the Trust would be like to take a copy to add to the collection.
The decision to suspend all competition was a difficult one for
everybody, but the correct decision was made.
many, there will be far greater concerns than the club at this time, but we
know how strong our bond is with supporters.
local community and family are at the core of our values as a club, but they
feel more important than ever at this moment.
plan is being implemented to protect both playing and non-playing staff from
the virus, to attempt to ensure the club survives the uncertainty, but
uncertainty is the only answer that we currently have and it will test our
resolve to the limit. Our loyal fan base will be vital during this period.
Season ticket holders and lottery members, I cannot thank you enough.
continued support will be critical throughout this period devoid of game-day
income and we urge you to continue showing your support whilst we are not
willing to support the club during this period can do so by joining our
lottery. There are numerous ways to join the lottery. We have introduced new
payment pathways for those willing to support the club in any way they can.
see the link below for details:
associated with the club are going to carry on doing the best we can. Whether
you’re social distancing, in self-isolation or just trying to act more
conscientiously, continue to be your best self. Act with kindness, stay
connected to those vulnerable or lonely and stay responsible.
The Trustees of the Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust would like to offer their sincere thanks to the volunteers who helped make the “Pass It On” project such a success:
Linda Mills, Ray Hill, Joe Warburton, Nick Jones, Callum Brown, Mary Turner and Sandra Bullock. Without their help and enthusiasm the project could not have been realised within the twelve months timescale. Another factor was the help from the staff at the Oldham Local Studies and Archive department and Gallery Oldham for their help and support.
Finally, a big thank you is offered to the Heritage Fund whose financial backing made the whole project possible.
On Saturday December 7th the Trust held its Celebration event to mark the closing days of the ‘Pass It On’ project by which their memorabilia collection was given over to Oldham Council and the launch of the new Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust website. The project has been funded by the ‘Heritage Fund.’
On the day there was a mini display of memorabilia along with a slide presentation covering the activities of the trust over the years.
The turn out was very heartening with amongst the attendees: The Mayor of Oldham, Ginny Alexander and consort, Adrian Alexander, MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth, Debbie Abrahams, Club Chairman, Chris Hamilton, Club Captain, Gareth Owen along with a good representation from the ex-players association including “Hall of Famers”, Mike Elliott, Terry Flanagan and Martin Murphy. There was also representation from Rugby Oldham and ORSA.
The atmosphere was very positive with a particularly good response to the new website.
New Oldham Rugby League Book Now Available. By Michael Turner
190 A4 pages – Packed with facts, figures and images, the book, hardback and in full colour, deals with the running of the club during one of the darkest periods in the history of the country.
Read how just finding 13 players to pull on the jersey became a major struggle with so many of the club’s personnel away in the services. The poignant letters home from players and officials writing from the trenches – filled with hope and despair!
How the mood of the country changed as the “home before Christmas” attitude gave way to the realisation that the conflict would endure for years.
The bravery and sadness as some players were honoured and others were lost.
View the flyer here to obtain your copy please email the Trust by clicking here.
This hard backed book is priced at £20 and is available to buy directly from the Trust. Send a cheque for £20 made payable to:
The Oldham RL Heritage Trust 9 Dumfries Drive Denshaw, Oldham OL3 5SG (Delivery free to Oldham postcodes. Please add £3.50 for P&P for addresses outside the Oldham area).
Preserving Oldham’s Rugby League Heritage for the next generation
The Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust has been awarded a generous grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The money will enable the Trust’s superb assortment of Rugby League memorabilia to be made more accessible than ever before. After work to catalogue and digitise the collections is complete they will be donated to Gallery Oldham who will safeguard the collection for future generations. The project is titled: “Pass it on!” Preserving Oldham’s Rugby League Heritage for the next generation.”
This unique collection has been brought together by the Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust over many years and is recognised as being one of the most important rugby club memorabilia collections in the world in either code of the oval ball game. The collection will first be prepared for storage using packaging materials designed specifically to aid against deterioration. But that is not all… the items will be professionally photographed with the images added to a new, revamped website along with digitised copies of the Trust’s extensive collection of programmes, booklets, yearbooks etc.
This undertaking will be a lengthy exercise and the Trust will soon be seeking volunteers to aid in the packaging and scanning of documents. Anyone interested can contact the ORLHT – tel: 01457 810197 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Turner of the ORLHT said
This is a fantastic project and I’m delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has supported it. It will enable the Trust to make one of the most generous donations to Gallery Oldham in our history. This will make an important addition to our collections and help to tell the story of the lives and passions of Oldhamers.
Michael Turner of the ORLHT
The Trust has recently been active promoting their latest book “The Roughyeds’ Kitbag”. Published last October to rave reviews.
Roger joined Oldham from the Spotland Rangers amateur club in 1972.
A hooker, he spent his first few seasons at Watersheddings in the shadow of Kevin Taylor who was the regular Watersheddings number nine for more than a decade During his spell in the Oldham ‘A’ team, Roger was in the side that won the Lancashire Shield against Salford in 1976.
From then on Roger had an extended spell in the senior side and amassed a total of 122 appearances, scoring nine tries and four drop goals. Included in the appearance total was being an ‘ever-present’ in 1977-78 when he played in all 33 matches.
A popular player on and off the field, Roger joined Warrington after impressing in a trial period in September 1982.
The condolences of everyone at the Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust go to the O’Mahoney family.