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History

The Old Brodleians RUFC was formed in 1930 by a small group of young men who had recently left Hipperholme Grammar School. (The school was endowed in the will of a local man, Matthew Brodley, who died in 1649; hence the title 'Old Brodleians'.)

The first game was played on the 20th September against Old Rishworthians at their ground in Southowram. The Brods struggled to raise a full team during the early years and almost folded in 1934, the decision to continue being taken at the AGM (attended by four people) by virtue of the chairman's casting vote. However, energetic recruitment led to an increase in playing standards and the club's fortunes began to improve. By the outbreak of war in 1939 the Brods ran two teams and had established themselves as a prominent junior club with a reputation for attractive rugby.

At first, players changed in the school gymnasium, two tubs of cold water in the fives court serving to wash off the Woodhead mud. After a few years Webster's Brewery agreed to the use of an unused stable behind the Hare and Hounds, and this was converted into changing accommodation. The Brods originally played on the school pitch before gaining the use of the main Woodhead field, then running parallel to the Denholmegate Road. After the war the Brods was reconvened mainly through the efforts of Ray Woodward and Philip Webb snr., both of whom had been founder members. Their changing facilities had been demolished by the brewery but the club was fortunate to acquire from Brighouse Council the use of a former decontamination centre behind Hipperholme Library. Another significant move at this time was the establishment of a ladies' committee, although initially they had to meet in secret as one or two players threatened to retire if women became involved! For the next twenty years, until the building of the clubhouse, they provided most of the club's income.

There were some strong post-war teams during the forties and fifties, when the increasing interest in rugby union led to the introduction of a third XV. During the late fifties and early sixties the first and second teams played on 'Smallwood's Field' in the centre of Hipperholme, where the Sandholme estate now stands, although the third XV continued to use Woodhead. Probably the most momentous decision in the Old Brodleians' history was taken in the early sixties, under the chairmanship of Donald Thompson, later M.P. for Calder Valley, when it was decided to build a clubhouse and return to Woodhead. A new pitch was laid and the facilities were opened on 1st September 1966 with a game against Halifax. Several years of work by countless members, male and female, had gone into the establishment of headquarters second-to-none. The Brods became an ever more flourishing concern and there was soon a fourth team playing regularly on Saturday afternoons. A prominent member at this time was Arnold 'Snip' Horner, chairman of the selection and bar committees and overseer of all matters, rugby and social.

In the early 1970s a Sunday morning junior rugby section was established. This has continued to thrive thanks to the energies of scores of coaches, to the extent that now, on any Sunday morning of the rugby season, around two hundred young players between the ages of five and seventeen represent the club. Its teams are among Yorkshire rugby's most successful. The importance of the junior section as a nursery for senior rugby cannot be over-emphasised as, in 1985, when Hipperholme Grammar School became independent and co-educational, the Brods lost its traditional source of players.

In 1980 a veterans' team was formed, giving many ageing enthusiasts the opportunity to continue or resurrect their playing careers, and to extend their experience with annual tours to some of the European mainland's rugby outposts.

With the establishment of a fifth team, the club was providing rugby for almost a hundred senior players by the end of the eighties.

Colin Green, chairman from 1990-2004, masterminded a series of refurbishments and extensions to the clubhouse which culminated in the replacement of the bar and social area. As ever, many people connected with the club gave their time and expertise freely in helping to overcome the frequent obstacles to development. On Sunday, 27th April, 2003 the new premises were opened by England fly-half Charlie Hodgson, who had learnt his rugby as a junior player at the club.

The introduction of league rugby in 1986 saw the Brods competing in North-East One, where they remained for a dozen years, narrowly missing promotion on several occasions, until they became members of Yorkshire One when the leagues were restructured in 1998. They were relegated in 2004, but a series of outstanding performances, orchestrated by former captain and long-serving flanker Andrew Crabtree and his coaching team, led to a return to Yorkshire One at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

The Old Brodleians has always been well supported, both home and away, by a loyal group of former players and officials. The club continues to prosper through the efforts of chairman Richard Turner and a core of members, who can be proud of the work they do in maintaining and building on the traditions of an enduring and worthwhile community.

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