The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Swinton Lions

1. Adrian Morley made a one-game cameo for the club.

NRL and Super League legend Morley was recovering from a torn bicep at Warrington, aged 36, when he made a solitary appearance for Swinton Lions, the club his brother Chris retired with in 2007. In a widely decorated career, with more than successful spells at Leeds Rhinos, Sydney Roosters, Bradford Bulls and the Wolves before his Swinton venture, the 42-year-old has earned a place in Rugby League folklore. His Swinton outing came in a 26-18 win over North Wales Crusaders in the Northern Rail Cup in 2013, as the Lions reached the quarter-finals. The Wolves connection was strong in the Swinton side that day, with Gareth O’Brien and Rhys Williams joining Morley on dual-registration, while Ryan Shaw, Gavin Bennion and Gene Ormsby were all on loan from the Wolves. That was extended further Kevin Penny, Stuart Reardon, Craig Harvey and Jack Cooper, brother of Mike, all featuring. Morley would return to the Wolves, following his Swinton cameo, featuring in his first Super League game for three months. He would join boyhood club Salford, a year later, and returned in 2015.

2. They have the most successful Ashes player for Great Britain.

Club legend Martin Hodgson stands above any Great Britain player for most successes in the Ashes series, being on the winning side five times. He was part of the winning sides in 1928, 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936, in the peak of a 10-tournament winning streak for Great Britain between 1922 and 1948. Hodgson would also earn notoriety for the longest converted kick in Rugby League history, hitting a 77-yard penalty against Rochdale Hornets in 1939. Hodgson had kicked two penalties at 60 yards before this effort, in the 9-5 win, with the back-rower once claiming the ball landed on a truck of a passing train, which didn’t stop for another 100 miles. That may be poetic license but what cannot be disputed is that the distance still stands as a record.

3. Ryan Giggs’ dad spent eight years at the club.

The current Wales manager and Manchester United legend has Rugby League to thank for his affiliation to the Greater Manchester region, having grown up in Salford while his dad played for Swinton Lions. Giggs, who was christened Ryan Wilson, was born to Danny Wilson and Lynne Giggs in Cardiff, before the family uprooted to Manchester. Wilson, a five-time Wales international Rugby League player, featured for Widnes before a move to Swinton in 1980, staying eight years at the club. Wilson would become a firm favourite at the club, and holds the joint record for drop-goals in a single game, in the sport, with five against Hunslet in 1983. Wilson would later split with Lynne, moving back to Cardiff, but the family sporting home had been well and truly found. Giggs would go on to become the most decorated Premier League player of all-time, before making the move back to Wales himself to head up the national side in 2018.

4. A club legend died after being struck by lightning.

Jim Valentine was one of Swinton’s pioneers, having earned a reputation as a clinical centre in both codes for the club. He played for the club between 1884 and 1901, and represented England. During the 1888-1889 rugby union season, he scored 48 tries and was a well-respected member of the Swinton side that joined the Northern Union in 1896. But three years after calling time on his career, in 1904, he was sadly killed after being struck by lightning while on holiday in Wales. Several other people died in the severe storm, with his wife and sister recovering from the storm themselves. Thousands of people lined the streets, when he was buried on 29th July 1904, a date which would have been his 38th birthday.

5. Marwan Koukash reverted on plans to buy the club.

In 2014, controversial Red Devils chairman Marwan Koukash revealed plans to offer the club a lifeline by completing a takeover and building a new stadium. The club was in financial dire straits, after a £17,000 winding-up petition from HMRC, and had debts well in excess of £100,000. They were in need of a saviour, so Koukash made public his plans to save their existence. His tentative move gathered some pace and culminated in a meeting with Swinton supporters to discuss his plans in person. They included a 3,000-capacity stadium, on the site of a local secondary school, complete with new housing, restaurants and a hotel. That was in January. A month later, Koukash came out and took back-word on his offer after a dispute with the local council. The Palestinian claimed that the land he was offered for the prospective new stadium was not even available for purchase. That was the end of that, and quickly. The only thing he took from Swinton was coach Ian Watson, who was appointed assistant the same year and became Salford’s head coach in 2015.