|Full name||William Batten|
26 May 1889|
|Died||26 January 1959
|Height||5 ft 10 1⁄2 in (179 cm)|
|Weight||13 st 4 lb (84 kg)|
|Position||Fullback, Wing, Centre|
William "Billy" Batten (26 May 1889 – 26 January 1959) was an English professional rugby league footballer of the early 20th century, noted as one of the greatest of his era. He played at three-quarter back for Great Britain, England, and Yorkshire, as well as English clubs Hunslet, Hull, Wakefield Trinity (Heritage № 306), and Castleford. One of the game's first superstars, Batten was a brilliant athlete and a huge crowd-puller – and also well aware of his own worth. In 1988 he became one of the inaugural inductees of the Rugby Football League Hall of Fame. Batten is also a member of the Hull and Wakefield Trinity halls of fame.
Batten was born on 26 May 1889 in the mining village of Kinsley, near Fitzwilliam, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His parents were James and Ann Batten, who both migrated to Yorkshire from North Wales. Batten started his rugby career with Kinsley and Ackworth United before joining Hunslet at the age of 17.
Professional playing career
Batten made his debut for Hunslet in February 1907 in a 15–0 win against Barrow. He helped the club win All Four Cups in 1907–08. He was selected to play for his country during the 1908–09 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain. Batten was also a member of the first British touring team to travel to Australasia under the leadership of James Lomas in 1910. He was selected to play during the tour against Australia (2 matches), Australasia (2 matches), and New Zealand. Batten was known for his trademark "Batten Leap" – his ability to hurdle players. He passed this trick on to his son Eric Batten, but the tactic was later outlawed because of its potential dangers.
Billy Batten played Left-Wing, i.e. number 5, in Hunslet's 14-0 victory over Hull F.C. in the 1908 Challenge Cup Final during the 1907–08 season at Fartown Ground, Huddersfield on Saturday 25 April 1908, in front of a crowd of 18,000.
Batten was selected to play for his country during the 1911-12 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain. Altogether, Batten won caps for England while at Hunslet in 1908 against Wales (2 matches), in 1908–09 against Australia (3 matches), Wales, in 1910 against Wales, in 1911–12 against Australia (2 matches), in 1912 against Wales, in 1913 against Wales. He also won caps for Great Britain while at Hunslet in 1908 against New Zealand, and Australia, in 1909 against Australia (2 matches).
During his time at Hunslet Batten was offered £4 a week to sign for Manchester United.
He joined Hull F.C. for a then record fee of £600 in April 1913 (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £205,400 in 2013), and was to be paid £14 per match (in contrast to the £4 a week he had been offered to sign for Manchester United), a huge sum at the time (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £4,794 in 2013), plus an additional special bonus. These were huge figures at the time and made Batten possibly the highest-paid professional footballer in Britain, if not the world. He helped the club win the Challenge Cup in his first season, when his presence in the side reportedly added £500 to gate receipts per game. Such was his popularity that Hull F.C. would print "Batten certain to play" over posters advertising their home games at the Boulevard.
Batten played Centre, i.e. number 3, in Hull's 6-0 victory over Wakefield Trinity in the 1914 Challenge Cup Final during the 1913–14 season at Thrum Hall, Halifax, in front of a crowd of 19,000, played Centre, i.e. number 4, and scored a try in the 9-10 defeat by Rochdale Hornets in the 1922 Challenge Cup Final during the 1921–22 season at Headingley, Rugby Stadium, Leeds, in front of a crowd of 34,827.
Batten declined the opportunity to tour again with Britain in 1914 for "business reasons". His benefit match in 1920 reaped an incredible £1,079 13s 8d. (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £112,700 in 2013). To put that in context Alex Murphy, one of the game's true legends, raised approximately £2,000 in his "phenomenally successful testimonial year" almost 50 years later (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £61,970 in 2013). Batten won caps for England while at Hull in 1921 against Wales, and Other Nationalities, in 1922 against Wales, in 1923 against Wales, Also while at Hull in 1921 Batten was selected to play for Great Britain against Australia. He was transferred to Wakefield in May 1924 for £350.
Batten signed for Wakefield Trinity in May 1924, playing in 79 games over the next couple of years, scoring six tries and kicking two goals. Billy Batten played Centre, i.e. number 3 in Wakefield Trinity's 9–8 victory over Batley in the 1924 Yorkshire County Cup Final during the 1924–25 season at Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds on Saturday 22 November 1924, and played Centre, i.e. number 3 in the 3–10 defeat by Huddersfield in the 1926 Yorkshire County Cup Final during the 1926–27 season at Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds on Wednesday 1 December 1926. He also continued his representative rugby career, playing for Yorkshire on four occasions. He stayed at Wakefield Trinity for two seasons before moving to Castleford in January 1927.
Billy Batten had two brothers who were also famous players and the Batten dynasty continued with his three sons who all played at the top level, with Eric appearing in a record eight Challenge Cup Finals. Batten's marriage to Annie Glover (birth registered April→June 1889 in Hemsworth district) was registered during January→March 1909 in Wakefield district. They had children; William Batten (birth registered during July→September 1909 in Hemsworth district), Sydney M. Batten (birth registered during July→September 1911 in Hemsworth district), Mary Batten (birth registered during January→March 1913 in Hemsworth district), Frederick E. Batten (birth registered during July→September 1914 in Hemsworth district), Florence M. Batten (birth registered during July→September 1916 in Hemsworth district), Emily Batten (birth registered during April→June 1919 in Hemsworth district), Ann V. Batten (birth registered during July→September 1923 in Hemsworth district), and Robert Batten (birth registered during January→March 1927 in Hemsworth district). Batten's sons; Eric Batten, Billy Batten, Jr., and Bob Batten (Castleford 1951–55), were also top class rugby league footballers, as was Billy Batten, Jr.'s son, the rugby league footballer Ray Batten, he was also the uncle of rugby league footballer Stan Smith.
- Gate, p. 29
- "Death details at freebmd.org.uk". freebmd.org.uk. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Gate, p. 13
- Tom Mather (2010). "Best in the Northern Union". Pages 128–142. ISBN 978-1-903659-51-9
- William 'Billy' Batten at therfl.co.uk
- "Papers Past – Evening Post – 14 May 1910 – Football". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 Years: Māori Rugby League, 1908–2008. New Zealand: Huia Publishers. p. 60.
- "Billy Batten". hullfc.com. Hull F.C. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "Measuring Worth – Relative Value of UK Pounds". Measuring Worth. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Matthew Taylor (2005). The Leaguers: The Making of Professional Football in England, 1900–1939. UK: Liverpool University Press. p. 116.
- Collins, Tony (1998). Rugby's Great Split: Class, Culture, and the Origins of Rugby League Football. Routledge. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7146-4867-5.
- "A complete history of Hull FC's Challenge Cup finals". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- "England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". englandrl. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". englandrl. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Profile at thecastlefordtigers.co.uk". thecastlefordtigers. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Jeff Hill, Jack Williams (1996). Sport and Identity in the North of England. UK: Keele University Press. p. 158.
- "Marriage details at freebmd.org.uk". freebmd.org.uk. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org
- Billy Batten at rugbyleaguehistory.co.uk
- Billy Batten at hunslet.org.uk
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Hunslet to Hull