Diamond day for Shaw Cross' star production line

By Trevor Watson FROM a £30 Nissen hut to premises worth around £600,000 has been no small step for Shaw Cross Young People's Club which celebrates it's Diamond Jubilee with a dinner in Dewsbury Town Hall on Saturday.

Shaw Cross has, of course, become famous for being a consistent production line for quality rugby league talent but is now also a popular social facility.

Helping to oversee all this has been Douglas Hird, who took over as founder secretary at the age of 16 and has held the post ever since, apart from two years national service, during which time Alfred O' Keefe had the job.

Longevity is a by-word at Cross because club president Alan Lancaster was one of the first players when a team was launched, playing at under-18 level.

Alan and Gordon Waring were among the first players from Shaw Cross to sign for a professional club, Alan played for Huddersfield and Bradford Northern and Gordon joined Dewsbury. Over the years more than 300 have added their names to the distinguished list, one of the latest being Pat Walker at Dewsbury Rams.

They include such Great Britain stars as Derek Turner, Mick Sullivan, who still holds the record for the number of international caps, Mike Stephenson and David Ward. The two Micks, Sullivan (1954) and Stephenson (1972) became World Cup winners while Ward and Turner captained Challenge Cup winning sides.

Only last Saturday two former Cross lads, Lee Gilmour - now the head coach at the club - and Nick Fozzard, were in the St Helens side at Old Trafford for the grand final against Leeds. While they were on the losing side, both have appeared in numerous trophy-winnning teams with the Saints, including the World Club Challenge.

There is also great pride in the fact that when Dewsbury won the Championship in 1973, the 15 on duty included Mike Stephenson, Nigel Stephenson, Dick Lowe, Joe Whittington and Brian Taylor, who all moved to Crown Flatt from Shaw Cross after the-then Dewsbury chairman Brearley Bailey decided to concentrate on local lads rather than the familiar 'old lags.'

John and Alan Bates trained at times with the Cross in those days but neither played and they simply walked into Crown Flatt and asked for trials.

It is this kind of thing which makes so much of it worth while for Douglas Hird. He remarked: "When Nick Fozzard joined us he lived at Wakefield. His dad Peter had played for us before he joined Leeds and he brought him along. He couldn't believe it when I was still here.

"The Talbot family have been connected with us for years, Steve was a founder member. Arthur, who played for Dewsbury and Hunslet, still watches the first team and his grandsons are in the younger teams.

"Former players keep coming back or I bump into them in town. The only trouble is that these days I recognise faces but don't always know their names." That is scarcely a surprise when you think of the thousands of lads who have passed through the club since 1947.

Shaw Cross created another piece of rugby league history in 1977 when Gurdeep Singh Ryatt became the first Sikh to sign professional when he joined Hunslet. Gurdy, as he is known to everyone, still attends gatherings of former players and recently spoke of the terrific support received from his team mates during his amateur days.

Recently Abdul Khan, from an Asian background, left Cross for Bradford Bulls. His younger brother is at the club and highly rated in what is an untapped source of talent for rugby league.

Douglas added: "We are very well organised on the coaching side with Mick Turner, who has done an outstanding job over the years, now chairman of the open age section, he is also director of coaching and on the executive committee.

"Alan is another hard worker as secretary of the junior section and Chris Smith does a fine job as chairman of the club.

"Over the years I have been fortunate in having good people around me and we couldn't have achieved all we have done and produced so many good players over the years without their valuable help. The great thing about the club is the community spirit and we are very proud of that."

Sharks' 60 years adds up to a great success

THE past six decades have seen a major effort by Shaw Cross Sharks to develop their club and its facilities. They have had to beg, borrow, if not necessarily steal, and their fund-raising even involved a link with Princess Diana's family.

There is a naive belief that because clubs are amateur, they cost little to run but Douglas Hird, who has been secretary throughout the 60-year life of Shaw Cross, estimates that to run an open age team costs around 15,000 a year, with 2,500 of that insurance. Strapping alone costs 70 a match.

He added: "The days of young players washing in buckets of water are long ago. Youngsters have so much these days and many are brought up to have everything. Even at a young age they expect to have expensive boots, shoulder pads and helmets. At one time if you couldn't afford people did without.

"Food after matches is another major item, especially with so many young teams and our junior chairman Alan Smith does a tremendous job of organising."

Cross initially played alongside their headquarters but Shaw Cross Primary School was built on the pitch and they moved to Sands Lane and then Bywell Field, which they still use on occasions. They have three pitches flanked by Leeds Road and Grange Road and the senior pitch, with its natural banking, is ideal.

Mr Hird talked of purchasing the famous Nissen hut for 30 which they fetched from a former military camp.

He said: "It doesn't seem a lot of money now but it was then. The edges of the corrugated sheets were corroded and it was a massive job putting it up. The first strong wind and we found sheets of metal from the hut roof all over the field.

"We decided to put bricks on to prevent the sheets blowing away but they were too heavy and after a time the roof collapsed. Luckily there was nobody inside and we decided on a flat roof. That hut lasted 50 years in various forms."

In 1953 Cross purchased what became known as 'the top hut', this time for 200 and it had to be brought from Morecambe. The first function in it was a harvest festival and it was used regularly for whist drives, organised by the enthusiastic women's committee.

New baths and toilets were added in 1960 at a cost of 1,000, half provided by the Ministry of Education, 25 per cent from Dewsbury Education Athority and the rest by the club.

Three years later a major decision was taken to build a new clubhouse and the cost was a staggering 8,000. A development committee was formed under the chairmanship of Billy Wormald, head of the local firm of Wormald and Walker, and another member of a well-known local mill family Sam Lyles was vice-chairman.

The chairman of the National Association of Boys' Clubs came up from London to advise about launching an appeal. He was Viscount Althorp, who became Earl Spencer, father of Princess Diana.

In 1965 the new clubhouse was opened and served Shaw Cross well but further progress meant another new building and this time there were major plans. It took two years to put forward an application to the National Lottery and since then has been added a members' room and gymnasium to bring the overall cost up to 600,000.

Mr Hird remarked: "It seemed obvious we needed a proper bar and function room to raise money. The fact is many clubs these days are not simply sporting organisations but businesses and you have to run them like that.

"We stage many functions here, birthdays, christenings, anything. We don't advertise but rely on word of mouth, we have to keep the money coming in."

It means Mr Hird is at the club almost every night and he is grateful for enthusiastic help from many sources to keep the bar and kitchen running smoothly.

Shaw Cross is a popular venue for such as police cup finals and the Great Britain squad invariably train there.

Mr Hird went on: "These days with young players it is very difficult, there are so many stipulations regarding coaches. But BARLA (the British Amateur RL Association) has done a marvellous job over the years.

"At one time there were only about 250 amateur teams but when BARLA took over there were over 1,000 in no time. Now the Rugby League seem to again want the whole of the game under one umbrella but that would be a mistake, they have to realise the value of volunteers and many of them could leave."