Despite a long history, Rugby League and Bury are not traditionally names that go together but this is beginning to change.
Radcliffe was a semi-professional rugby league club based in Radcliffe, a town within the borough of Bury that joined the Northern Union in 1901–02 and played for a single season in the Lancashire Senior Competition, which was effectively Division 2 (West). The club had been founded some years before their single year in the semi-professional ranks having been drawn away to Wigan in the first round of the 1897 Challenge Cup, losing by 3 points to nil then the following year lost again in the first round, this time away to Hull at the Boulevard by 19 points to nil.
In 1904/05 a team from Prestwich was present in the Manchester and District Second Division, finishing 7th in a division won by Leigh Miners Rangers, finishing runners up by a point in 1908/09 with a team from Radcliffe ending the year in fourth spot.
Swinton Lions have recently been based at Sedgley Park RU in Prestwich and Salford Red Devils previously had training facilities at Philips High School, Whitefield - facilities that we now call our home. However, Bury Broncos Amateur Rugby League Club remain the only side in the borough to offer the opportunity for amateurs the opportunity to get involved, and are the first amateur rugby league team to be based in the Borough since the demise of Prestwich ARLFC in the mid-1990s.
The Broncos were born out of an open meeting held at the Castle Leisure Centre in December 2007. A group of potential players based in the south of the Borough joined another group based around Bury and out to the north, both of whom had been separately looking at the possibility of setting up a new club for some time. With the support of the RFL, a letter was sent to all individuals in the area with a connection to the game, and advertisements were placed in the rugby league press. Around 25 people attended the initial meeting.
Open age players began meeting on Wednesday nights at Goshen Sports Centre, Bury for informal training sessions. Then, despite their small playing squad, the club made the brave decision to enter the North West Counties League in September 2008 and the inaugural summer North West Merit League in 2009.
The club continued to recruit players to the open-age team and was promoted from Division 6 in the North West Counties League to Division 5 for the 2009/10 season. More and more players arrived but despite some excellent wins, especially a home win to third placed Eccleston, the season tailed off disappointingly.
In its first two years the club played from the terribly boggy (and illegally small!) pitch at Derby High School with a nomadic life for after game refreshment; the lack of a true home was a big problem. However the club began playing on a newly marked pitch marked at Phillips High School in time for the 2010/11 season, forging a partnership with the nearby Stand Cricket Club for post-match entertainment. We have now begun to train at our new base as well, and our first junior sides are close to their first games representing the Broncos.
Since that move the club has gone from strength to strength, with the Adult first team becoming the first team from Bury to win Rochdale's Riley Cup in 2013 and progressing up the league ladder to reach North West Division Two. We have started successful second and third adult teams to cater to demand whilst under 18s, under 16s and under 14s have won trophies and set a shining example to our juniors at the younger ages right down to 5 years old.
The club is always welcoming to anyone in the local community interested in giving the game a go - experience is not required. Open age players have come forward from Stacksteads in the north, Tottington, Bury itself, and from across Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich. Many of the players have played for other clubs, including the old Prestwich team, while the club have attracted a host of new recruits who are experiencing the game for the first time with our adult third team or in our junior sides.
The club are proud to have signed the RFL Community Clubs agreement, and seeks to advance the sport in the borough of Bury. New players, sponsors, and anyone wishing to get involved are very welcome. Going forward, the club hopes to see many more people participating in what has always been one of the toughest, but most sporting of games around.