Club History

Club History

Wath Brow Hornets ARLFC

Club History


History: The game of rugby of one sorts or another has been played in the Wath Brow area of Cleator Moor for many a long year, Prior to the great breakaway in 1895 there was a rugby union team with the name now associated to the rugby league club.

However the original Wath Brow RL, OR Northern Union as it was known at that Particular time was founded in 1898, and in that year had a gentleman by the name of Wilson represents Cumberland in the first ever County Championship against Cheshire.

The original club was disbanded in 1904 and it was not until 1920 that a Wath Brow Hornets Northern Union was formed and featured in its ranks the Famous Slasher Nolan a local Pugilist of some repute. This club however was only disbanded again on the outbreak of war in 1939 and from then until 1955 there was no rugby of any code played in the area?

The present club, Wath Brow Hornets Amateur Rugby League Club was formed that year following a meeting in the Fleecy Ram public house. The first president of the club was Mr J A Pickthall, with Mr Bill Reed the Chairman and Eddie Gate the Secretary/ Treasurer. It was several years before the club experienced its first success which was the Cumberland Under 19 cup final victory over Kells, one of the winning members of that team on that day was Alan Burns who later joined Whitehaven, he in turn was followed to the recreation ground several years later by another second row forward Billy Holiday, who went on to captain Great Britain, to this day is undoubtedly the most famous product of the Hornets.

During the 1960s the reputation of the Hornets grew and they became one of the most feared teams in Cumberland Amateur Rugby League - regularly winning championships and Top - Four Play-offs- although the Cumberland Cup was always the one which seemed to elude them.

Players of note who represented them at this time included Keith Irving who later coached the Hornets and briefly in the professional ranks at Workington Town and later Chairman of Whitehaven, Frank Snow who served Whitehaven and Johnny Rae, a Pica lad born and bred and who eventually played for Bradford Northern were he gained full Great Britain honours in the same team as Billy Holiday.

In to the seventies and the Hornets really started to make their mark,

In the 1973/74 season the brows u17s picked up the Lancashire youth cup defeating Whelley arlfc 24 / 10, the following 1974/75 season both teams met again in the same final, this time around it was a much tougher affair, the Brow won a hard fort battle 15 / 6.

The Lancashire cup was a sort after piece of silver wear especially for the Cumbria teams, in the 1997 season they were pitted against Widnes Tigers in the final and in a very close contest game eventually won 24 /14.

In 1979 they opened their new club house and in the same year became the first local club to contest a BARLA final, as they crossed swords with Leigh Miners Welfare in the Lancashire/Cumbria Cup decider.

Unfortunately they came second best on the day to a sparkling Leigh team - But already players of the calibre of Mal Flynn Ralph McConnell Alf McCarron and numerous professional clubs were eagerly pursued John Lightfoot.

The following season saw the Hornets Under - 18s take the BARLA Lancashire/Cumbria Cup for that age group defeating Widnes Tigers in the final. The side contained several players destined for the professional game - including Ian Rudd, Colin Todd, and Alan Pearson. In 1979 the British Amateur Rugby League Cumbria Regional League came in to being and further success came the way of the Hornets, They were inaugural winners of the competition under the guidance of coach Keith Irving - following their Mathew Brown League Successes of 1976 and 1977.

In the following season the Brow again reached the final of the Lancashire/ Cumbria Cup only to lose to south of the county's neighbours Millom 4 - 9. However the club crowned its silver jubilee season by winning the Cumberland Cup for the first time in the clubs history. A decade of success was completed with further Cumberland cup triumphs in both 1983 and 1986. The Cumberland cup was again won in 1994/95 with victory over the mighty Ellenborough Rangers. Top Four Championships was acquired by default as Ellenborough Rangers refused to play the final on any of the dates allocated, But the Big One - the league Championship trophy - still proved elusive. The quest for the Championship was never stronger than the out set of 1997 - 98, coach Martin Amor's burning desire to put that particular piece of silver ware was eventually put in the clubhouse trophy cabinet and achieved in fine style. The Hornets toped that by reaching the BNFL BARLA National Cup final only to be defeated by Skirlaugh from Humberside whom were flying high1999/00 in the National Conference League. The Brow also played its first ever professional side in the Challenge cup, unfortunately the Brow went down to top class opposition Hull k r 56 / 4

Season saw the introduction of Alfie Gregg and Ian Rudd who took charge as joint coaches over the open age teams, This proved to be the best season in the clubs history in their quest for domestic honours - winning the Cumbria Cumberland and Amateur cup to go with their retention of their League title.

The Challenge cup took the club to new Heights after over coming strong opposition from Barrow Island, West Bowling and Eccles the dream draw of a away fixture to Super League opposition London Broncos, Wath Brow came away from the capital losing the game 44 - 18 but coming away from the capital with a great deal of pride and confidence in breaking so many records in the Silk Cut Challenge cup, first ever Amateur club to have one of its players receive the official man of the match award, Marc Jackson, against a Super League Team, Scoring so many points against a Super League Team only conceding points against a super league club. The only blot on the Brows season was the defeat in the championship final play off against Hensingham.

Season 2000/01 proved a momentous one again for the Hornets and ever better than the previous year when the club became the Cumberland Leagues most successful club ever in a single season - winning all five trophies on offer, the season was completed by the second team winning all three trophies available to them, a total of 7 trophies between them.

2002/03 Saw the Brow enter the prestigious National Conference League, the flag ship of amateur rugby league, the second team were promoted to the CARLA first division after the previous season's success under joint coaches Kevin Howland and Lee Power. The new season in the National conference was a big step for the players and the club as every one new it would be, with Alfie Gregg and Ian Rudd still at the helm no one could have predicted the season ahead.

The first team lifted the N C L 2nd

Division championship trophy and gained promotion to the first division, but the highlight of the season was to be the challenge cup victory over local professional neighbours Workington Town in front of a packed 3500 spectators at the recreation ground Whitehaven. Andrew Hocking also picked up the official man of the match award

The next round again saw a home draw against high flying Batley Bull Dogs who had a host of ex Super League Players in their ranks; on a wet Saturday night in front of 1200 spectators the Brow finally went out of the Challenge Cup after a close fort game.

This season also saw the Brows youth policy providing four players for the Great Britain u18 team who toured Australia, Graham Mattinson, Tony Gregg, Craig Calvert and Derry Eilbeck along with Ian Rudd who was head coach for the tour plus Tommy Graffin as the team phisyo. The open age BARLA team to Russia included 3 of the Brows first team players in Paul Davidson, Carl Rudd and Scott Tear who represented G B in the unoriginal Victory Cup, The clubs CARLA team were well placed in the league finishing mid table.

2003/04 Season was a new experience as the Brow were promoted to the

NCL 1st division, the players and coaches had to lift their game as the gulfs in the leagues were visible from the start of the season. The season also produced a great Challenge cup run,

2004/05 The club had to call on all its resources after loosing Carl Rudd, Derry Eilbeck and Mark Deans to Whitehaven along with influential stand off Neil Stewart having to retire through injury after a great season narrowly missing out on the grand final place.

The 2005/06 Season was always going to be a struggle after loosing so many players both through retirement and to the pro game, The conference team battled well and ended their season in a respectable seventh position, the CARLA team the clubs second string also battled away throughout the season never been able to play a settled seventeen players dew to their players up to the NCL team. But to the credit of both Lee Power and Mark Connery the teams coaches who worked so hard throw out the season were rewarded when Wath Brow Hornets A the first ever second team in the CARLA lifted the Jennings Cumberland cup, In a fantastic game of rugby league against the cup kings of Cumbria the mighty Kells 22 / 15 at the recreation ground Whitehaven, the A team also reached the E & B Lamb Amateur cup final against Ellenborough Rangers at Lowca ARLFC, Ellenborough were to strong for the young Hornets team who made there opponents fight all the way.

To their credit they also finished fourth in the league which put them in the top four play offs against league champions Seaton who over turned them in a tight game.

2006/07 was also a new chapter in the clubs history as they secured a half million pound lottery grant from sport England, the club proudly opened there new change rooms and gymnasium facility in 2006. The club also gained the prestige's club mark accreditation.


After 2 season in the first division the Hornets eventually reached there goal by getting promoted back into the prestigious N C L Premiere division after winning the 2008/09 1st division championship, the clubs A team were not to be out done in this season, it was a hard season for the A teams under Lee Power and Kevin Howland, but they eventually started to put some great performances together, they over turned Cockermouth Lowca and also Seaton Rangers and the mighty Ellenborough, in that game the Hornets had no less than 7 u18s in the team, one of these youngsters was Karl Olstrum who ran in seven trys, the enthusiasm of the Brows youngsters overwhelmed the visitors and eventually ran out winners by 68 points to nil. The Brow were unlucky earlier in the season against Ellenbourgh as they were just defeated in the final minutes of the game going down 12 points to 6,

The high point of the season for the A team was the final game of the season when they were pitted against the high flying Distington team in the Cumberland cup final at Hensingham, the Brows A team eventually ran out winners to pick up one of the most sort after trophies in the county.

Another part of club history was made by the Hornets on Saturday 29th August 2009 at the challenge cup final Wembley when Lee Power and Gary McKee represented the club as the RFL awarded the first ever Challenge cup amateur club of the season award,