1. They defeated Australia
Yes. You read that right. On October 20th 1956, the Colliers, as they were referred to back then, sent the Aussies packing as they won 14-11.
It wasn’t a team of mugs either, when are they from Australia? The legendary Clive Churchill and Norman Provan were among those wearing the green and gold that day.
That Tour wasn’t one to remember for Australia. They lost 2-1 to Great Britain in the Ashes, a 19-0 defeat in the third and Final Test.
Back then, the tours were much longer and they played 28 games in total, losing nine. But the one that stands out is that defeat at the Recre’ in front of 10,917 people. It’s said the Aussies proclaimed Haven were the strongest club side in the country.
2. …they defeated New Zealand too.
By 1965, Haven were in a lean period. The ’50s had brought a Challenge Cup semi-final appearance (more on that later), and a sixth-placed finish.
The ’60s weren’t as kind, but they still had it in them to beat New Zealand, winning 12-5.
Centre John Coupe and back-rower John McVay scored the tries in the wind, wet and mud that only Cumbria can deliver.
Even back then, those conditions were an equaliser, and boy did the Kiwis find out. Not that they learned their lesson, in 2016, New Zealand came unstuck in Cumbria again, drawing with Scotland.
3. Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking coach featured for them.
He’s now widely regarded as the best kicking coach in rugby. Jonny Wilkinson, after his World Cup heroics in 2003, proclaimed he is the best in the world. More recently, he has helped Johnny Sexton.
But back in the day, Dave Alred featured in a trial game for Whitehaven.
Alred had just returned from a stint in American Football, notably playing for the Minnesota Vikings.
Ultimately, he quickly disappeared from Whitehaven and became far better known for his rugby union exploits. Likewise, he isn’t the most well-known connection between the 15-man code and Haven. Phil Larder coached the club.
4. They were the first pro team to have a sponsor on their shirt.
It’s a given now. But Whitehaven set the way in 1974 when they donned a sponsor for the first time.
By no means was it a blue-chip sponsor; it was Copeland Borough Council, but it was still pretty cool all the same.
5. They were robbed of an appearance at Wembley.
During their 72-year-history, Whitehaven have never been to Wembley.
But how they should have done in 1957.
Cup fever had spread across the town. An unlikely run to the semi-final, including a win over St Helens, had people dreaming.Thousands went from Cumbria to West Yorkshire as they took on Leeds at Odsal in front of almost 50,000 people.
With Dick Huddart leading the pack, they looked like they may do the unthinkable as they took a 9-8 lead, with the club’s all-time leading scorer John McKeown scoring three goals. But their hearts were broken as Jeff Stevenson kicked a drop-goal, which was worth two points at the time.
However, the match-winning moment was clouded in controversy as it appeared the field goal was indeed just a normal kick. Meanwhile, photos appeared to show one of Leeds’ try shouldn’t have been allowed as the corner post had been taken out, which wasn’t allowed back then.