Talking Sport: Dewsbury side was top class

Trevor Watson
Trevor Watson
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People in football are constantly wittering about Man U’s ‘Class of ‘92’ but around here it’s a matter of Dewsbury RL club’s Class of ‘73.

Members of the Championship-winning team of that era are still in full glow and one of their number, scrum-half Alan Bates, celebrated his 70th birthday at Leggers last Friday, surrounded by former teammates, friends and relatives.

A few were missing because of the Rugby League’s Hall of Fame function for Malcolm Reilly and the late, great Willie Horne, regarded as the first round-the-corner kicker.

Acker Bates looks younger than when he played and that wide grin was still in evidence. His brother John was there along with Nigel Stephenson, this trio play at Dewsbury District Golf Club while another guest, Joe Whittington, plays at Hanging Heaton and accuses them of dodging him because he’s too good.

Inevitably they argued about whose turn it was to buy drinks before reminiscing about the so-called ‘good old days,’ of playing in the 1970s.

Joe said: “I look at John and Nigel’s noses, then I look at mine and realise who did all the tackling.”

There was talk of when Dewsbury considered letting the Bates brothers join Wakefield in exchange for stand-off Dave Topliss and Nigel recalled that when he was at Bradford, they were interested in Alan. You wonder how careers and clubs might have changed if those transfers had gone ahead.

The trio raved about the ability of former Wakey star Neil Fox and agreed that the hardest men they faced were the fearsome Frank Foster and Tony Fisher. Remember there were no videos at matches in those days and some players were really dangerous.

Nigel praised their former captain and TV commentator Mike Stephenson for his generosity. Apparently Stevo, who couldn’t be there, had twice taken some of his old teammates for a meal and treated them royally. Bang goes a myth about his tightness.

Nice to see Premiership football back with the usual rows about penalties and diving. Certainly Stoke’s Victor Moses went down without much of a struggle against Swansea but nobody mentioned how easily Frank Lampard flopped in Man City’s game against Spurs.

Managers claim that some players are so quick they are easily knocked down. You get the impression the majority would fall if a butterfly crashed into them. There are plenty of speedy lads playing rugby and they don’t go flying when brushed against.

England’s RL side start their Four Nations tournament down under this Saturday against Samoa in Brisbane. The Aussies, who take on New Zealand, are said to be without 22 leading players for various reasons.

So well done to Huddersfield’s Danny Brough, who is giving everything as captain of Scotland in the European Championships when he could easily have cried off after a hard season.