Perched on my sofa, I’m penning this offering with one eye on the TV screen where the Castleford v St Helens RL Challenge Cup match is being broadcast live. My other eye drawing the short straw – Consequently, it’s Saturday afternoon will be spent witnessing a narrative being crafted on a laptop screen.
It has to be said, concentrating sufficiently to write when not fully focussed on the task in hand is an exacting experience. Today, proceedings unfolding in the televised rugby game introducing a dynamic to the subject matter, with the consequence of taking me off on even more tangents than normal. For example, as I wrote the previous sentence Cas’ Jake Trueman caused a re-write of this sentence when he waltzed through the Saints defence for a try.
On the plus side for you the reader, news about a try created by a fleet-footed Castleford rugby player was probably significantly more interesting than the planned original topic of Croatian car parking by-laws. I may add that later……. Wait!…. Wait!…. Come back, I’m only kidding!…….. Blimey, some people have no sense of humour.
At lunchtime I watched a documentary about the 50th anniversary of what became known as rugby league’s Watersplash Challenge Cup Final – A drama filled confrontation between Leeds and Wakefield Trinity, spawning unquestionably the most dramatic cup final ending ever witnessed.
The crown jewel of the sport in those days, played in such torrential rain at Wembley Stadium, Wakefield winger Ken Hirst’s try became the first touchdown on that stage made in full scuba diving gear.
If Hirst’s last minute score had been converted by team mate Don Fox, Wakefield Trinity would have sneaked a dramatic victory over their fierce West Yorkshire rivals. Unfortunately for Trinity fans, man of the match Fox scuffed the kick in front of the sticks.
He inexplicable sliced the ball, as if he’d been distracted by sight of a shark fin in one of the huge puddles residing in front of the Leeds posts. A witnessing made just as he stepped forward to kick the match deciding conversion.
“He’s missed it! …. He’s missed it!……. Poor lad!” BBC TV’s commentator Eddie Waring’s West Yorkshire tones exclaimed while relaying the game’s dramatic finale.
As Don Fox fell to his knees in despair post-miss, Leeds players celebrated the playing of a metaphorical get out of jail card. The ball, sliced so badly by the Trinity kicker, sailed out over the scoreboard stand, landing on an ark moored in the Wembley marina. A newly created attraction that three hours earlier had been the stadium car park.
As a precautionary measure, post-match player interviews took place with broadcasters adorning BBC issue water-wings.
I was only 5 years old on 11th May 1968 when the Watersplash Final indelibly etched itself into British sporting history. I don’t recall watching it on that day, my earliest televised sporting memory two years later at the same stadium when Leeds United took on Chelsea in the 1970 FA Cup Final.
That football game not played on a waterlogged pitch, but nevertheless a difficult playing surface hindered the quality of football. A consequence of the wonderfully thought out plan to schedule The 1970 Horse of The Year Show a few days before the showcase FA Cup Final.
Anyhow, enough of my bitterness at Leeds United’s mistreatment in various 1970’s finals!
With both my parents being Leeds RLFC supporters, I’d imagine the monochrome TV pictures of the Watersplash Final would have adorned the gogglebox at the Strachan residence on 11th May 1968.
My earliest memories of Leeds RLFC, the early 1970s vintage that included Holmes, Smith, Hynes, Dyl, Atkinson and Hardisty. Like the cities football team Leeds United, at that time they had an unerring knack of being vanquished in several finals.
Add to that a fairly barren run for Yorkshire County Cricket Club in my formative years, it’s probably the reason I’ve grown into a right miserable bleeder!