|Full name||Hunslet Hawks Rugby League Football Club|
|Competition||Kingstone Press Championship 1 (from 2014)|
|2013 RFL Championship||13th|
Hunslet Hawks is a professional rugby league club based in Hunslet, West Yorkshire, England. The club, sometimes known as 'the Parksiders' after their former stadium, play in the Championship One. Founded in 1883, before the split between rugby league and rugby union, Hunslet were a strong force in the early years of the Northern Rugby Football Union, winning All Four Cups in 1908. The 1987–88 Rugby Football League season was their last at the top level. Since then they have played in lower leagues.
A special general meeting of the Hunslet Cricket Club was held on 21 May 1883, the committee resolved to grant two local teams: Albion and Excelsior the sum of £130 to form the Hunslet Rugby Club based at Woodhouse Hill. The name of the cricket club was also changed to Hunslet Cricket and Football Club. The players initially wore blue and white quartered shirts. The new club played their first match on 6 October 1883, beating Hull "A". In December another side, Imperial, amalgamated with them. In 1884 Hunslet entered the Yorkshire Cup. They also changed their strip to chocolate and white, and built a stand.
Hunslet announced their arrival the following season by beating Leeds St John's (later to become Leeds RLFC) in the third round of the Yorkshire Cup. Better fixtures drew larger crowds and as a result the landlord wanted to put up the rent. The search was on for another ground, club officials purchased at little cost 10.25 acres (41,500 m2) of waste land at Hunslet Carr from the Low Moor Iron and Coal Company and had to shift 2,000 tons of rubbish to create what would become Parkside, which they moved to in 1888. The first game at Parkside was played on 11 February 1888, when they played and beat Mirfield. Just four seasons later Hunslet won their first trophy, the Yorkshire Cup, beating Leeds.
The city of Leeds had an abundance of rugby football clubs and although members of the Yorkshire RFU (which was in turn a Constituent Body of the RFU), it was decided to form a 'more local' association. It was for this reason that the Leeds & District organisation was formalised when a meeting took place at the Green Dragon Hotel, Leeds on 27 September 1888. The foundation clubs were Bramley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Kirkstall, Leeds Parish Church, Leeds St John's (later to become Leeds), and Wortley.
In 1895, Hunslet were one of the twenty-one clubs that broke away from the Rugby Football Union, and joined the Northern Union. In 1897–98 Hunslet became Yorkshire Senior League Champions, and in the following season they reached the final of the Challenge Cup, going down 19–9 to Oldham.
Billy Batten signed for Hunslet as a seventeen-year-old in 1905.
In the 1905–06 Northern Rugby Football Union season Hunslet won the first ever Yorkshire Cup, beating Halifax, 13–3. They were the first club to win All Four Cups, which they did in the 1907–08 season. They changed their colours to chocolate and white after this feat. Powered by a pack known as the Terrible Six, Hunslet were led by Albert Goldthorpe, already in his late thirties but a dominant figure in the early years of the code. Many players left Parkside following this success either being transferred to other clubs or going into retirement.
After a dispute about pay, Billy Batten was transferred to Hull in 1912. He was transferred to Hull for the then record sum of £600. In 1921, Harold Buck became the game's first £1,000 transfer when he moved from Hunslet to Leeds. According to some sources, the deal included a player in part exchange.
Soon after the First World War Hunslet were at their lowest ever position in the league.
In 1924, the club's record attendance was set at 24,700 for a third round Challenge Cup match.
In 1927 Jack Walkington started a career as player until 1946 then as coach to 1960. In 1927–28 Harry Beverley, Les White, Jim Traill and Billy Thornton joined and prospects improved when they finished 4th in the league that season.
In the remaining years up to the 1930s, Hunslet had rather a lean period, until 1932 when they regained the Yorkshire League Trophy and made it to the final of the Yorkshire Cup. The 1931–32 season saw them win the Yorkshire League.
In the 1920s, the club had played in white jerseys, but the players used to steal them for work. Determined to prevent this happening, the club changed to coloured jerseys in 1932. They could not use the Leeds city colours as rivals Leeds wore those, so Hunslet decided to adopt the University of Leeds colours of myrtle, white and flame-red having been given new kit by the university.
Hunslet celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1933–34. The club did this in some style as Hunslet beat Widnes at Wembley Stadium in the Challenge Cup Final. They were given a civic reception back in Leeds and toured with the cup.
Hunslet reached the RL Championship Final in 1938 meeting their neighbours Leeds in the only all-Leeds final. The match was played at the Elland Road football ground, to accommodate a huge demand from the city's rugby league supporters. Over 54,000 people watched the game, a then record for a match in England, Hunslet triumphed, 8–2, to take the title for the second time in the club's history.
In the late 1930s the club was doing well and played in front of large crowds, this wave of success was only halted by the Second World War, Hunslet dropped out of the wartime Yorkshire league in 1942–43 but returned to the competition in 1943–44.
Hunslet stopped being a multi-sport members club with sections for bowls, cricket, athletics, social events, and other smaller sections in 1951 and became a limited company. The new status as rugby league club saw a decline in Parkside being used by other sports and other members of the community.
In the late 1950s, Hunslet's fanbase went into decline as post-war slum clearances changed what had been a residential area into an industrial one. Despite this, in 1958, they paid £2,000 for Horace Grainger, making him the most expensive rugby league player of the era.
The team's performances began to decline, reaching a low point in 1961–62 when they finished 25th and were relegated to the new second division. However, player-coach Fred Ward resurrected the team when he joined Hunslet at the start of the 1962–63 season. It was decided that the team never looked that imposing in green and a decision was made to go back to white, this time with two chocolate hoops. In his first season, Hunslet won the Second Division Championship and secured a position in the top division as well as winning the 1962 Yorkshire Cup Final over Hull Kingston Rovers.
Hunslet lost in the 1965 Yorkshire Cup final against Bradford Northern and that same year reached the semi final of the Challenge Cup. To avoid going on black and white television against Wakefield who also wore hoops in the middle of their jerseys, the club got a strip with a chocolate V. They won the semi-final and went to Wembley with it, stitching green blazer badges to the jerseys. They lost the final narrowly, 20–16, to Wigan. The side were again split up by transfers and retirements. Just two years later in 1967 the dream was over. Attendances continued to decline partly because of further slum clearances and factory closures. The last four home games of 1969–70 attracted attendances of less than 1,000 each. Ward left the club and with that the club entered free fall.
On the eve of the 1970–71 season the players were told they were going to have their wages cut, and because they had not had a rise for eight years they went on strike. Under threat of the club being closed the players eventually backed down. However, after one game they again went on strike. Players retired or went on the transfer list and the team dropped down the league.
Parkside's stand was burned down by vandals in 1971. Parkside was then sold off to an industrial developer for around £300,000 in 1972. The last game at Parkside was on 21 April 1973 against York. Parkside was demolished and Hunslet became tenants at the Elland Road Greyhound Stadium. In July 1973 the club announced the winding-up of Hunslet RLFC because no suitable new location could be found that was financially viable. The £300,000 proceeds of the sale of Parkside were distributed to shareholders.
Due to the efforts of their former Great Britain forward Geoff Gunney (MBE), local businessmen and supporters the club managed to reform as New Hunslet for the 1973–74 season and moved to the Leeds Greyhound Stadium and erected iron American football posts. The resurrected club had a new badge depicting s phoenix. In 1974, New Hunslet adopted green and white as team colours because the traditional myrtle, white and flame colours were still registered to the former Parkside-based club, and they would not release them. The stay at the greyhound stadium was cut short when the owners closed the ground and arranged to demolish everything on the site.
In 1978, coach Bill Ramsey put a lot of pressure on the RFL and finally got permission to use the traditional colours. The club reverted to Hunslet for the 1979–80 season. With the closure of the Greyhound stadium, the next ground to host Hunslet was Mount Pleasant, Batley, for two seasons, before Hunslet moved to Leeds United's Elland Road football stadium then owned by Leeds City Council. After leaving Elland Road, Hunslet had a brief spell at Bramley.
The 1990s and onwards
On 19 November 1995, the club, now known as Hunslet Hawks, moved to the South Leeds Stadium, only about half a mile from Parkside. On that day, Leigh were the guests at Hunslet's first home game for twenty-two years. They then narrowly missed out on promotion from Division Two in 1996. Coach Steve Ferres left to join Huddersfield and David Plange took over as player-coach.
In 1997 the Hawks appeared at Wembley Stadium for the first time since 1965 in the first (and last) Challenge Cup Plate Final but were beaten by Hull Kingston Rovers, 60–14. Also in that year, the Hawks were promoted to the First Division as champions.
In 1999 as a possible merger between Hunslet and Bramley was debated. In 1999 Hunslet won the Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final against Dewsbury, 12–11, at Headingley. After that game the Hawks were denied entry to Super League by the Rugby Football League who cited a document called 'Framing the Future' as justification. This caused a number of players to leave the club and for the average attendance to fall by more than 1,200 to 800. A link-up with Leeds Rhinos saw Plange go to Headingley as Academy coach.
Paul March is the current player/coach at Hunslet, joining midway through the 2009 season following the resignation of Graeme Hallas. March guided Hunslet to a 6th place finish and a play-off spot in Championship 1. Hunslet travelled to Blackpool in the first week of the play-offs winning, 18–21, to set up an elimination semi-final against Oldham in which Hunslet were comfortably beaten, 54–30.
In 2010 Paul March led Hunslet to their first silverware for over 11 years by securing the Co-operative Championship 1 title, and subsequent survival in 2011.
In 2012, Barry Eaton took over as coach.
- Paul Daley 1980-5
- Peter Jarvis 1986-7
- David Ward 1986-7
- Nigel Stephenson 1988
- Jack Austin 1988
- John Wolford 1988
- Paul Daley 1990-1
- Paul Daley 1993
- Stephen Ferres 1994-6
- David Plange 1996–?
- Roy Sampson 2006
- Mark Cass 2007
- Graeme Hallas 2008–9
- Paul March 2010-1
- Barry Eaton 2012-3
* Announced on 10 January 2014:
|Marcus Elliott||Dewsbury Rams||6 Months||June 2014|
|Jack Lee||York City Knights||2 Years||August 2014|
|Lee Mapals||Released||N/A||June 2014|
|James Davies||Released||N/A||June 2014|
|Liam Hood||Salford Red Devils||1 Year||August 2014|
Players earning international caps while at Hunslet
- Neil Lowe won caps for Scotland while at Hunslet
- Lee Hanlan won caps for Ireland while at Hunslet
Other notable players
These players have either; won Challenge Cup, Rugby Football League Championship, Yorkshire Cup, Yorkshire League, have received a Testimonial match, were international representatives before, or after, their time at Hunslet, or are notable outside of rugby league.
- Hunslet official site
- Hunslet Hawks forum on rlfans.com
- National League website
- Hunslet Hawks Fans Forums – RugbyLeague.org
- Pictorial history of rugby league in Hunslet