The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Workington Town

1. Chris Thorman and Fuifui Moimoi lived in the same flat block at Parramatta Eels.

The unlikely duo linked up again when Thorman became head coach of Workington in 2019, a year after Tongan powerhouse Fuifui Moimoi joined the club from Toronto Wolfpack. This wasn’t the first time the two would share employers, with Thorman playing the 2004 season alongside a young Moimoi who was breaking into the team for the first time. What makes this link-up all the more unusual was that the two actually shared a flat-block while playing for the club. Moimoi announced at the start of the season he will be playing on for this season, at least, at the age of 40.

2. They sacked their coach for an alleged bust-up with a fan.

Gerard Stokes, father of England cricketing sensation Ben, was appointed as head coach of his former side Workington in 2003, having played for the club some two decades earlier. He lasted four years at the club, leading then through a turbulent time with only seven squad members at the club when he initially signed on the dotted line. That all came to an abrupt end, however, in February 2007 when he was alleged to be involved in a bust-up with Barrow Raiders supporter Jamie Heighton following a clash between the two Cumbrian sides. Stokes appealed a subsequent sacking, in due course, and despite being cleared by an RFL investigation was still relieved of his duties after a £14,000 pay-off. Stokes would then join Whitehaven as head coach for the following campaign.

3. Their former kit-man and water carrier played against the club and broke his nose.

Jimmy Woolaghan has been described as a bonafide club legend at Workington Town, having been involved in the backroom set-up for 41 years, in capacities ranging from kit-man to A team coach. Perhaps his greatest memory would come when he played for the Dewsbury A team, to make up numbers, using the famous A.N. Other tag. He would see his nose then broken by Workington player Joe Sullivan, in what turned out to be the only time he would don the club’s colours. He would remain involved to this very day, and has held almost every backroom position possible.

4. One of their former board members held meetings with the Nikita Khrushchev and also notorious spies.

Tom Mitchell was elected onto the Workington board, as they entered the league in 1945 and he quickly helped build the club into the powerhouse they were, led by Gus Risman. Mitchell also acted as team manager for the 1958 Great Britain Tour and chaired the Rugby League in 1961-1962, often revered as the ‘Godfather’ of the game. His life outside the game was perhaps the most interesting, with his role at the Ministry of Agriculture [he was a former farmer himself] leading to meetings with former USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev and Egyptian ruler King Farouk, as well as prominent KGB British trio Maclean, Burgess and Philby. Mitchell also owned a piece of pottery given to him by one Pablo Picasso, among a treasure trove of oddities. He sadly passed away in 1998.

5. They agreed to sign Clive Churchill in 1948.

Imagine if this came off. Australian Test fullback had just played his first match for NSW, which started a run of 99 straight representative matches spanning to 1955, and made his Test debut against New Zealand. Later in the 1948-1949 Kangaroos Tour, he played in all give games but he might never have even played more than once for Australia had a move to Workington gone through. The Cumbrian outfit offered him a whopping £10,000 contract and Churchill later described as being ‘robbed of the chance’ to earn the sum at the peak of his career. Workington arranged all the financial side of the move, before the ARL imposed a timely ban on international moves for Rugby League players. Of course, staying in Australia sure did work out for Churchill, but things may well have turned out differently in the UK.