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Rochdale Hornets

Rochdale Hornets RLFC
Club information
Full name Rochdale Hornets RFLC
Rugby Football League Club
Industrial & Provident Society Limited
Nickname(s) Hornets
Short name Rochdale
Founded 1866
Current details
Coach(s) Ian Talbot
Captain(s) Wayne English
Competition Kingstone Press League 1 (from 2015)
2014 RFL Championship 12th
Current season

Rochdale Hornets RLFC is an English professional rugby league club from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England. From 2015, Hornets will compete in the re-structured Kingstone Press League 1, the third tier of European rugby league (behind the Super League and Kingstone Press Championship). Rochdale Hornets is also one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world's first rugby league clubs. Rochdale Hornets beat local rivals Oldham 32–18 in 2013 Championship 1 playoff final at Leigh Sports Village. The club has a strong relationship with Super League side St. Helens.


  • History 1
    • Early years – the 19th century 1.1
    • Early 20th century 1.2
    • Post war 1.3
    • 1980s and early 1990s 1.4
    • Summer era 1.5
  • Coaches 2
  • The Law Cup 3
  • 2015 squad 4
  • 2016 transfers 5
  • Former players 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Early years – the 19th century

A Rochdale Athletic Club was formed in 1866 and held its first festival on the cricket ground at Merefield. Rugby football first took place as an organised game about 1866 or 1867, when the Rochdale Football Club was formed by a magistrate and numerous business owners and self-employed men. Within a year they were all playing alongside new members when working class men were allowed to join as well. Other clubs quickly followed, among them Rochdale Wasps and Rochdale Juniors.

In 1871, Rochdale Juniors and Rakebank merged to form Rochdale United. On 20 April 1871, the directors of Rochdale Wasps, Rochdale United and Rochdale Football Club met at the Roebuck Hotel in the town centre to form a senior team that would represent the town. Rochdale Wasps. Rochdale Butterflies and Rochdale Grasshoppers were suggested as names for the new club before Rochdale Hornets was agreed on. The original team colours were amber and black.

In 1875, Hornets played at Mr R. Kershaw's Athletic Grounds in Vavasour Street, and later at Rochdale Cricket Ground. The club very quickly took a leading position in the game in Lancashire. Hornets had an open door approach to membership and were able to insist on gate money as they played on an enclosed field.

In June 1879, Rochdale Rovers threw in their lot with the Hornets, and it was in this year that the club first adopted the white jersey. A ground was taken at Oakenrod for the 1879–80 season but owing to poor gates, Rochdale Hornets returned to Rochdale Cricket Club ground.

In 1881 no fewer than 57 rugby clubs played in Rochdale and district, fielding 80 teams regularly. By the 1890s, the players were almost all working class.

Rochdale moved to the Athletic Grounds in Milnrow Road, which opened on 9 June 1894. Their first game at their new home took place in September 1894 against Crompton.

They were founder members of the Northern Union in 1895. Hornets made a poor start under the new regime and finished bottom of the league table, for a good number of years they lost many more matches than they won.

Early 20th century

They became tenants of the Athletics Grounds in 1900. Between the 7–9 March 1901, a three-day bazaar was held at the town hall where around £1,000 was raised to help pay for the club's debts. Incidents from the game played on 22 March 1901 resulted in the ground being suspended by the Northern Union.

The players went on strike on 29 March 1902 as empty coffers meant that they went unpaid.

Rochdale Hornets then refused to travel to Dewsbury on 1 October 1904 on account of a smallpox outbreak, and were subsequently fined £20.

Rochdale purchased the Athletics Grounds in 1913. Hornets won the Lancashire County Cup in 1911 and 1914. Between 10 October 1914 and 6 March 1915, Hornets played 25 games without defeat, shortly after this streak was broken by a defeat to Wigan but they would finish fourth in the table. Hornets beat Broughton Moor 75–13 in a cup-tie on 13 March 1915; it was their biggest margin of victory since 1871. Twenty-five Rochdale players enlisted for the First World War, one of whom, Sergeant Twigg, was killed.

Rugby League came back to Rochdale following the Great War on Christmas Day 1918 when Rochdale played a friendly game. In the half-season of the spring of 1919, Rochdale Hornets not only won the Lancashire League but also carried off the Lancashire County Cup.

Rochdale's biggest win against a senior club came on 27 March 1920 when Wakefield Trinity were beaten 64-nil.

The annual Law Cup, then known as the Infirmaries' Cup, was first contested against neighbours Oldham on 7 May 1921. Hornets played six games in a fortnight before falling to their biggest ever defeat 79–2 at the hands of Hull. Hornets changed their colours from green and black to red, white and blue as the green and black strip was deteriorating in the wash.

The club's record attendance was set at 26,664 in 1922 when Oldham were the visitors for a third round Challenge Cup match. Hornets won the Northern Union Challenge Cup in 1922 by beating Hull 10–9 at Headingley, Leeds. That was Hornets' one and only Challenge Cup final. Due to the ferocity of their play, their pack of forwards was known as "the Terrible Six".

Hornets were formed into a limited company on 31 May 1929.

On 4 October 1930, Stanley Baldwin, Hornets' winger was fatally injured during a match with Oldham.

Owing to a financial crisis in 1931, the Athletic Ground was offered for sale and all the players put on the transfer list. A fire destroyed the stadium's main stand, dressing rooms and offices on 18 September 1935. A new stand, built over the ashes of the old, was opened on Saturday 7 March 1936 for the match against Liverpool Stanley. Another financial crisis in 1938 led to further talks about selling the ground and a further crisis in 1939 resulted in the creation of a members' club.

Hornets dropped out of the wartime Lancashire League, their last match a 12–4 defeat against Salford at the Athletic Grounds on 11 May 1940.

Post war

An appeal went out to supporters in July 1945 for help in renovating the ground, pitch and premises so that rugby league could restart at the Athletic Grounds after the war. On 25 August 1945, Hornets resumed with an away game at Craven Park, Barrow which they lost 5–14. The first Infirmaries' Cup game since 1938 was played at the Athletic Grounds on 24 August 1946, in which Hornets were beaten by Oldham.

On 29 March 1947, Hornets ended a run of 14 consecutive defeats with a 3–0 home win over Halifax. Hornets played in green and black for the first time in 26 years on 13 December 1947 in a match against Wigan. Thereafter they used the colours as a change strip in the event of a colour clash.

In 1947 and 1958, Rochdale Hornets made it to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, but both times Wigan ended their hopes of a Wembley final.

On 24 October 1953, Hornets' second row Ralph Slater was fatally injured in an A-team game at the Athletic Grounds against Oldham A.

Rochdale's highest attendance in a league match was set on Saturday, 16 October 1954 when Hornets lost 4–18 to local rivals Oldham in front of 19,654 spectators. Hornets played their first game at Spotland in 1954 when a one-off game against Keighley was played there.

Rochdale Hornets brought in a Fijian contingent in the early 1960s, starting with Orisi Dawai and Josefa Levula in 1961 and, later Apisai Toga. This has resulted in Rochdale having the largest Fijian community in the UK, outside of London.[1] [2]

In 1965, Hornets appeared in the final of the Lancashire Cup when a 19,000 crowd saw them lose to Warrington at Knowsley Road, St Helens.

Frank Myler arrived at Hornets in May 1971 to take up the position of player-coach with the Rochdale Hornets from May 1971. They reached a Players No 6 Final in 1974. Myler left Hornets in October 1974.

Kel Coslett was coach between 1976 and 1979.

1980s and early 1990s

In the 1980s, things took a turn for the worse with the crowds virtually disappearing.

Eric Hughes coached Rochdale for the 1987-88 season. In 1987 both Rochdale Hornets and Rochdale A.F.C. were in financial trouble. Hornets were banned from signing players in November after failing to pay a transfer fee. Deep in debt, Rochdale accepted Morrisons £2.7m offer for the Athletic Grounds and following the sale of the land, moved to Rochdale A.F.C.'s stadium in the Spotland area of the town at the end of the 1988 season. The stadium became jointly owned by Hornets, Rochdale Council and Rochdale A.F.C.. In October 1988, Rochdale were saved by the local council with a £60,000 loan.

In 1989, Hornets were promoted from the Second Division to the top tier. The club's record attendance at Spotland was set at 8,150 when Hornets played Oldham on Boxing Day 1989.

In September 1990, Neil Holding briefly coached Hornets.

In 1991, Hornets appeared in the final of the Lancashire Cup.

Summer era

On 9 May 1996, Rochdale sacked their coach, Steve Gibson, after taking just one point from their first six games of the First Division season.

Deryck Fox became player-coach in May 1998, and made an immediate impact. A ten-match losing sequence was ended as Hornets won at Featherstone Rovers in Fox's first match in charge. However, Hornets ended that 1998 campaign in next to bottom position in Division One.

In October 1998, Karl Marriott died following a training session and a couple of months later Roy Powell died in similar circumstances. Hornets struggled early in the campaign when they occupied bottom spot for a couple of weeks. They recovered slightly and had moved up to 15th position, fourth bottom, by late June.

On Wednesday, 30 June 1999, it was announced that Deryck Fox was no longer Rochdale's coach. During his thirteen months as Hornets' coach, the club played 38 matches. They won 12, drew one and lost the remaining twenty-five. Bob Eccles took over as caretaker coach.

Steve Linnane became head coach in December 1999 but quit in June 2000 to become assistant coach at Super League club Halifax.

Steve Deakin, joined Rochdale Hornets as head coach in August 2000 before rejoining Keighley as head coach in September 2000 when incumbent Karl Harrison left to become assistant coach at Bradford.

Martin Hall took up the position of coach at Rochdale Hornets in November 2000. He stepped in after the shock resignation of Steve Deakin who returned to Keighley after a few months in charge. He took Rochdale to two consecutive third-place finishes in the Northern Ford Premiership. Hall departed along with all the players after not renewing his contract after his failed bid to take over the club.

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. He left in November 2005, citing frustration at the club's financial problems and his lack of a proper contract.

On 13 March 2005, Hornets set an all-time Rugby League record when they defeated the amateur side Illingworth 120–4 in the Challenge Cup. This is the highest score ever achieved by a team in the cup.[3] The biggest winning margin is still that of Huddersfield, who beat the amateur side Swinton Park 119–2 in 1914.

Darren Abram was appointed head coach two weeks later. Abram was dismissed on 9 July 2007 after a run of defeats which left the club facing relegation. Shaun Gartland was placed in temporary charge.

Bobbie Goulding was appointed as Rochdale Hornets coach for the second time in September 2007 and relieved of his duties in May 2008 after a run of six consecutive losses.

Darren Shaw was appointed as Rochdale Hornets coach in May 2008 after a previous spell as assistant coach under Bobbie Goulding in his first spell as player coach in 2003.[4]

On 13 January 2009, shareholders voted to put Rochdale Hornets into administration after debts ordered by HM Revenue and Customs accumulated £55,000.[5] An Industrial and Provident Society (a co-operative) was created and recognised by the Rugby Football League, and the Hornets were re-founded. The co-operative was initially created around a core of loyal fans, and membership is open to all. The co-op operates on a one-member, one-vote principle.

Darren Shaw departed the club at the end of the 2009 season and was replaced by ex St Helens player John Stankevitch in early November 2009.

Stankevitch was given the difficult task of recruiting a competitive squad of players from those available that had not already been recruited elsewhere and a slow start to the 2010 Northern Rail Cup followed.

However, the club went on to exceed all expectations and finish 5th in the table giving them a play-off position for the first time in years. The team were eventually eliminated in the semi finals of the competition.

Stankevitch signed a new contract in July 2010 in preparation for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and began the club's re-emergence with the recontracting of the majority of his squad.


The Law Cup

The Law Cup is an annual match between Oldham and Rochdale Hornets, first contested on 7 May 1921. Including the 2008 fixture, Oldham have won 36 to Rochdale's 22 with 3 drawn games.[6]

2015 squad

* As of 23 November 2014:

2015 Squad Numbers

No Player Position Former club
1 Wayne English (C) Full Back Swinton Lions
4 Lee Paterson Centre Batley Bulldogs
5 Dave Bloomfield Wing Oldham Roughyeds
6 Paul Crook Stand Off Stanley Rangers
7 Danny Yates Scrum Half London Skolars
8 John Cookson Prop Leigh Centurions
9 Alex McClurg Hooker Swinton Lions
10 Warren Thompson Prop Swinton Lions
11 Jordan Case Second Row, Loose Forward St Helens
12 Alex Trumper Second Row North Wales Crusaders
14 James Tilley Hooker St Helens
15 Lewis Sheridan Scrum Half St Helens
17 Lewis Charnock Prop St Helens
20 Bradley Hargreaves Wing Wigan St Patricks
22 Mike Ratu Centre, Wing Hull Kingston Rovers
23 James Dandy Hooker Barrow Raiders
25 Steve Marsh Second Row, Prop Blackbrook ARLFC
26 Dave Sutton Wing Thatto Heath Crusaders
27 Chris Tyrer Prop North Wales Crusaders
28 Matty Hadden Prop Oxford RLFC
29 Jack Francis Prop, Second Row Saddleworth Rangers
30 Danny Davies Second Row
32 Jack Ashworth Prop

2016 transfers


Player Club Contract length Date
Jono Smith North Wales Crusaders 1 Year October 2015
Lewis Galbraith Sarina Crocodiles 1 Year October 2015
Ben Moores Sarina Crocodiles 1 Year October 2015
Joe Qauninci Rochdale Mayfield 1 Year October 2015
Jack Francis Coventry Bears 1 Year October 2015
Stuart Biscomb Oxford RLFC 1 Year October 2015
Harry Files Salford Red Devils 1 Year October 2015
Corey Lee Leigh Centurions 1 Year October 2015
Samir Tahraoui Bradford Bulls 2 Years October 2015


Player Club Contract length Date
Tony Suffolk Swinton Lions 1 Year October 2015
Danny Jones North Wales Crusaders 1 Year October 2015
Dean Mignacca Australia 1 Year October 2015
Dave Llewellyn Retirement N/A October 2015
Liam Gilchrist Retirement N/A October 2015
Gareth Langley Considering Retirement TBC October 2015
Danny Bridge Redcliffe Dolphins 2 Years October 2015
Dave Hull Released October 2015
Ryan Smith Released October 2015

Former players


  1. ^ Aldred, Tanya. "World Cup romance comes to Rochdale with a dash of Fiji offered in the Pennines". The Daily Telegraph. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Cartwright, Phil. "Rugby League World Cup 2013: Fiji and Rochdale united by sport". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". 14 March 2005. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "Hornets voted into administration". BBC News. 13 January 2009. 
  6. ^ "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". Retrieved 8 January 2014. 

External links

  • Official club website
  • Hornets centenary booklet
  • National League website
  • Hornets forum on
  • Hornets Fans Forums –
  • Ray French selects his top 10 Challenge Cup final shocks. No 7: 1922, Rochdale 10–9 Hull
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