Skip to content

Life as a player in the 1950’s

Although Rugby League crowds reached an all time high during the immediate post Second World War sporting boom, few of the benefits filtered down to the players. Despite the absence of a football style maximum wage, player payments were not sufficient for full time professionalism and it was only through winning bonuses that any significant financial gain was possible. The employment of a Football League style retain and transfer system also placed restrictions on the players’ bargaining power. This arrangement enabled clubs to hold a players’ registration until they decided to transfer him to another club or he retired. Although clearly a welcome bonus, money was not the main reason most professionals played the game. The prestige of playing for their local professional club provided sufficient motivation for many players and, whilst growing up in Maryport on the Cumbrian coast, John’s main ambition was to sign for Workington. He achieved this in 1950 at a time when, despite being just 5 years old, the Club was already well on the way to becoming a leading force in Rugby League. With Tom Mitchell at the helm, the legendry Gus Risman was recruited as player coach in 1946. He led the Club to its first major honour, the League Championship, in 1951 and this was followed by a first Challenge Cup final victory in the following year.