Northern Union - 1895 to 1922
At a meeting at The George Hotel, Huddersfield on 29th August, twenty one Northern clubs, one of which was Warrington, voted to form a breakaway Northern Rugby Football Union, and to allow broken time payments with a ceiling of six shillings per day for loss of earnings through playing rugby. Full time professionalism was still illegal.
Early proposals to further the interest of spectators i.e. "reducing the number of players from fifteen to thirteen, abolition of line-outs and using a round ball" were put forward. Trial games were played, resulting in opinions that players did not like a round ball, and other changes would tend to make the game faster than the players could stand.
The Northern Union Competition was established. Warrington wins its first match in the Northern Union by
beating Hunslet 5-4. Foden scores the only try and Burton kicks a goal, at the "old" Wilderspool.
In April the away match to Wakefield Trinity is switched to Warrington, because of a ban on the Wakefield ground. The Wirepullers win 10-3.
Warrington finished the first season in 13th place with 17 wins and 5 draws from 42 matches.
The widening of Wilderspool Causeway caused the Club to move back some boundary fencing at a cost of £242 and a new stand, the installation of turnstiles and an embankment cost a further £527.
At the end of the first season in the Northern Union the Club had paid out £96 5s in broken time payments.
So many clubs had joined the Northern Union that it was decided to abandon the one league system and
introduced two county leagues, the Lancashire Senior Competition and the Yorkshire Senior Competition.
The first Challenge Cup competition was held. Warrington's first match was a scoreless draw at Broughton. The second round home victory of 24-0 over Holbeck was played in four quarters of 20 minutes each instead of 2 halves because of a very strong wind. The Club eventually lost 6-0 in a semi-final tie with Batley at Fartown.
Mr J.E. Warren of Warrington was elected President of the Northern Union. As Warrington's secretary he had been largely responsible for the Warrington Club's involvement in the foundation of the Northern Union.
New rules were implemented; goals, however kicked were to count as two points; line-outs were abolished, to make way for the "punt-out" from touch.
On 3rd September 1898 Warrington played their first match at Wilderspool. It was against Swinton, when a crowd of 7,000 witnessed a drawn game, 3-3.
Warrington was ordered to put up 200 notices round the town warning spectators about unruly conduct at games.
Warrington had to re-locate again this time due to the building of Fletcher Street and its houses, on a portion of their old field. This was to be the club's sixth venue since formation. Fortunately, after fears that Fletcher Russells had earmarked the adjacent land for development of their factory on Priory Street, the Club were able to agree a ten-year lease on Wilderspool with local brewers Greenall Whitley. Latchford Rovers Rugby Club previously used this pitch.
£251 was spent on removing some of the ground fencing and establishing the boundaries of what became Wilderspool Stadium. The grandstand was moved from the old ground to the Priory Street side of the new ground.
Wilderspool Stadium takes its name from Wilderspool Causeway. "Wilderspool" means "wild beast's pool". So it was perhaps appropriate that the ground was nicknamed the "zoo" in the 1970's & 1980's.
Professionalism is adopted in the Northern Union, but players must have other employment.
On 3rd September Warrington played their first match at Wilderspool. It was against Swinton, when a crowd of 7,000 witnessed a drawn game, 3-3. Alf Boardman made the first of his 403 appearance for Warrington in this match. Robert Bate scored the first points at the new ground, when he scored Warrington's try. A right winger named Morgan Bevan was the Swinton tryscorer - an omen perhaps of the great try-scoring feats of his future Warrington namesakes, Brian and John. A crowd of 2,000 watch as Wilderspool stages a Lancashire County trial game between the "Probable" and "Possibles".
In October the Club signed Jackie Fish at the age of 18, for the princely sum of £50. He was born in Runcorn and had played for Lostock Rugby Club. He played his first match for the Club that same month against Barrow in a friendly, when he scored a sensational try.
An association football team was started in the town and there was a real concern that the sport would become more popular than rugby. However this was not to be the case and the team folded after a year, rugby has remained the major sport in Warrington ever since.
On 2nd December Jackie Fish scored three tries in a 14-6 win at Leigh. This is the first ever hat-trick of tries by a Warrington player.
In March, winger Jackie Fish became the first Ernie Brookes signed for the Club, his signing on fee was a small lemonade, a cigar and a pat on the back
Warrington player to score five tries in a match, when he did so in a 44-0 win over Goole at Wilderspool, in the second round of the Challenge Cup. Fish also kicked seven goals for good measure to give him a tally of 29 points.
George Dickenson signed for the Club.
Warrington beat five Yorkshire clubs, Leeds, Heckmondwike, Leeds Parish Church, Bradford and Castleford to reach the final of the Northern Union Challenge Cup. Jackie Fish and the defence were the stars of the cup run, with Fish scoring at least a try (10 in total) and a goal (8 in total) in each match. Batley, won the cup for the third time with a 6-0 win, at Headingley, before a crowd of 29,569. The only highlights for Warrington were the brilliant runs of winger Jackie Fish.
Warrington appeared in the renamed South West Lancashire Cup against Leigh two days later. The strenuous game against Batley had taken its toll on the Warrington players and the match ended in a scoreless draw, a replay never taking place.
Three hat-ticks helped Jackie Fish to twenty-two tries in the 1900/1 season.
In June, fourteen clubs including Warrington resigned from the two county leagues to form a new Northern Rugby League. This could have lead to the formation of Super League ninety five years before it actually happened.
The league was restructured with two divisions of eighteen teams. Warrington finished 8th in the first division. St Helens were relegated and Leeds were
promoted from the second division. Thus Warrington are the only founder members of the Northern Union in 1895 never to have been out of the top flight.
Warrington win their first Northern Union trophy by winning the South West Lancashire and Border Trophy, with a 7-2 win over Widnes on 29 April. Jackie Fish scored all the points with a try and two goals.
There were more rule changes; the punt out from touch was abolished, a scrum on the 10 yard line was substituted.
Ernie Brookes signed for the Club, his signing on fee was a small lemonade, a cigar and a pat on the back.
Jackie Fish received £3 to sign on again for the 1903/4 season and his match money was increased to £1. Centre George Dickenson received £4 to sign on and received 17s 6d a win and 12s 6d lose or draw.
In August George Thomas joined Warrington from Newport Rugby Union Club.
On 12th October, Jackie Fish played and scored for both teams in a match at Wilderspool. The match was a Lancashire county trial, Fish started with the "Probables" and scored two tries and kicked three goals as his side led 28-0 at half-time. The backs changed sides for the second half and Fish then scored a try and kicked a goal for the "Possibles".
The South West Lancashire League match against St Helens at Wilderspool, on 4th April counted as double, in that league. Warrington won the match 19-3. A fixture congestion caused Warrington to play twelve games in the month of April.
Warrington again reach the Challenge Cup final. They got there with victories over Swinton (after a replay), Wigan, Pontefract and Bradford (also after a replay). Defeat was suffered again, this time to Halifax at The Weaste, Salford 8-3, before 17,041 spectators. Davies scored Warrington's only points with a try.
New rules introduced included a three man front row in the scrum. The knock-on rule was also amended.
Frank Shugars signed from Penygraig Rugby Union Club.
Warrington made their third Challenge Cup final appearance thanks to a brilliant interception try by Fish against Bradford in the semi-final. Warrington had beaten Morecambe, Keighley (after a replay) and Wigan in the earlier rounds. The replay at Keighley kicked off an hour late, at 5pm, because of the late arrival of the train carrying the Warrington team.
It was a case of third time lucky as Warrington went on to lift the Challenge Cup after a 6-0 victory over Hull Kingston Rovers before a 19,638 crowd at Headingley. The star of the show was again Fish who scored both the Warrington tries.
After three seasons the two division idea was scrapped. One major division of 31 clubs was established. However not all clubs played each other and league positions were decided on a percentage basis. A smallpox epidemic again disrupted fixtures, whilst Warrington played 38 matches some clubs only played 20.
The Lancashire Cup was introduced for the first time. Warrington won their first match in this competition with a 10-0 win at Rochdale Hornets, in October. Harmer and Isherwood scored tries and Preston kicked two goals. The next round tie was played at Wilderspool, but lost 2-5 to Leigh, with Preston kicking the Warrington goal. This was the first match in which Warrington's players had worn numbers.
A The top four play-off was introduced for the first time to decide the championship.
The Challenge Cup semi-final tie between Salford and Keighley was held at Wilderspool. A crowd of 8,500 generated receipts of £246.
Warrington play their final 15-a-side match against Hunslet at Wilderspool. Warrington win 15-2, with Lees scoring the final try, he also kicked the final goal.
A proposal by Warrington to reduced the number of players from fifteen to thirteen was approved by the clubs. The play the ball when a player was tackled was introduced as was the scrum back if the ball was kicked out on the full. So the new code of streamlined rugby began to develop.
The first thirteen-a-side match at Wilderspool was a 33-7 victory over Hull. The extra space benefiting Warrington's backline as the Wirepullers scored nine tries, including a Brookes hat-trick.
On 20th October Jackie Fish scored thirty points in a 50-3 victory over Huddersfield at Wilderspool. The winger scored 4 tries and kicked 9 goals. This was the first time that Wilderspool had seen Warrington score 50 points in a match.
Warrington reached the final of the Lancashire Cup for the first time, when they lost to Broughton Rangers, 156 at Wigan in front of 14,048 spectators. George Dickenson and Ernie Brookes score the Warrington tries.