Dewsbury and the first Challenge Cup final at Wembley

In 1929 Dewsbury Rugby League Club found itself at the centre of one of the sports most significant events. It won through to the final of Rugby League Challenge Cup to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Originally the clubs that formed the Northern Union could only play in local knockout competitions, as the then Rugby Football Union authorities refused to sanction a nationwide tournament, in fear of it leading to the game changing from its amateur status to the professional game we see today.

But, with the demands of both professionalism and competition playing key roles in the inception of the newly formed governing body in 1895, a national Northern Union knockout competition was quickly established. The first Challenge Cup tournament was first played in 1896-97. 56 clubs competed, with Headingley, Leeds, showcasing the final, between Batley and St Helens, which Batley won 10-3 in front of 13,492 spectators.

The competition quickly became a success and by the 1920s it was increasingly difficult for any of Rugby League grounds to satisfy spectator demand to see the final tie. Moving the final to London was suggested as a means of providing the game with a national showcase and the motion was carried by 13 votes to 10. Wembley hosted its first final in 1929, when Wigan beat Dewsbury 13-2 in front of 41,500 fans. Crowds increased steadily over the next few decades as the annual pilgrimage to Wembley became one of the sports most celebrated events, which has more than achieved its aim in bringing the sport to the forefront of the national consciousness.