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Swinton celebrate their golden jubilee

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A galaxy of stars from the glory years of the sixties will be on parade at Swinton’s Championship clash with league leaders Featherstone at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday (3pm). It’s 50 years since the Lions won the Rugby League Championship title in 1963 and they have decided to celebrate the landmark at Sunday’s game.

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Now that sends synapses to some of my memory banks that hav'nt been accessed for a very long time.


That was the first season of two division rugby since the very early 1900's and Swinton had quite the team. especially in the backs with Ken Gowers at full back and Johnny Stopford on the wing both regulars in the GB team. They also had a wondefully named pair of way above average backs with the names of Fleet and Speed.


Albert Blan was an old fashioned ball paying loose forward who gelled the whole team together together in classic fashion and was a deadly goal kicker as an added extra.


Their first championship was in the big freeze year and when the thaw arrived they went on a long winning run to emerge champions in a first past the post system. Playoffs had been abandoned.


They repeated the dose the next year and I remember them coming to Keighley, as Keighley had won promotion the previous season, and winning comfortably.


Without being certain I think they averaged around 6,000 at the old Station Road ground. I have been to GB testmatches and championship finals there and the place was an impressive if fading arena with very tall posts and a huge playing area.


With a railway station alongside the ground and not too far from the motorway it was a regular big match venue. Swinton were the big players in Manchester RL at this time, Salford being mired at the wrong end of division two but still averaging 2 to 4,000.


So thats around 8,000 regular speccies from Manchester that have haemorraged from the game in the northern metropolis, not to mention that Oldham had good crowds as well.


That was the high point for Swinton though and following the loss of Station Road and the still active 40 years wandering the wilderness with stops at Bury, Whitefields and Leigh, Swinton are a shade, a ghost, a spectre of their former selves being now just an adjunct to Warrington..


They will never regain the mantle of top RL dog in Manchester which this anniversary is commemorating but, nostalgic old #### that I am, I would love the Agecroft ground to come to fruition and Swinton, who I believe once had Pendlebury in their title, retrun to their old stamping grounds and establish themselves as a strong championship level club. Who knows where they might get to from there. After all, in 1963 they were champions of the Rugby Football League.

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Good luck to all concerned at Swinton for your special day.

As an Oldham supporter I always had a soft spot for Swinton.

In the late 50's as I recall Oldham used to play Swinton at Watersheddings on Xmas Day and at Station Road on Good Friday.

Also memories of Test Matches against Australia at Station Road and the heartbreak of the Challenge Cup Semi Final replay between Oldham and Hull KR, when the match was abandoned due to fading light (no floodlights in those days) with Oldham leading, only to be then beaten in the third game at Huddersfield.

Have a great day on Sunday.




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