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Playing during the War

Like all professional sport, Rugby League was severely affected by the Second World War. As the hostilities unfolded, increasing numbers of players became unavailable due to military service and work commitments in the reserved occupations. Some clubs also had their grounds requisitioned for the war effort, whilst attendance restrictions were placed on others as a precaution against bombing. In 1939 the RFL reacted to the growing shortage of resources by replacing normal competitions with Lancashire and Yorkshire ‘Emergency Leagues’. But as a number of clubs succumbed to the difficulties which faced them and closed down for the duration, the two county leagues were amalgamated into the Wartime Emergency League in 1941. These closures left a number of players without a club and led to a relaxation of the rules regarding player registration. The RFL allowed any player who became available through these circumstances, to be signed by another club for the duration of the war, as long as permission was obtained from the club which held his registration. As a miner, Frank was in a reserved occupation and when his club Castleford had to close down he remained available to play rugby and was signed by Huddersfield in 1942. However, further wartime emergency rules also allowed players to ‘guest’ for other clubs in the competition, when they were without a fixture. So, as Frank explains, on the weekends when Huddersfield were without a fixture, he often received a telegram asking him to play for other teams, such as Keighley and Batley, which he never refused, even appearing in matches away at Hull on three consecutive weekends!