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Turning the corner

Although the 1980s was a time of almost constant despair for Huddersfield RLFC’s diehard supporters, the decade ended with an air of renewed optimism. In 1988 a three man consortium led by Mick Murphy finally came forward to rescue the club. Aberdeen based Murphy had achieved international honours as a player, representing Wales in the 1975 World Championship competition, before building a successful hotel business. He teamed up with Neil Shuttleworth, a lifelong supporter at Fartown, and Jim Collins, a local builder and property developer, who had made a previous attempt to rescue the club.

Although unable to offer sufficient financial input to join the consortium, Keith continued working tirelessly for the club and his contribution was recognised by the new owners who made him an Associate Director, a position which he still holds today.

As well as beginning to improve the playing staff, the new owners also carried out a considerable amount of work on the Fartown stadium and by the end of the 1989/90 season significant progress was being made. The side included former Australian Schoolboys captain Greg Shuttleworth, dynamic fellow countryman Wally Gibson and recently capped Great Britain Colts and Under 21 international Anthony Farrell as average crowds topped 1,500 for the first time since the 1970s.

In contrast to the previous decade the 1990s was a time of almost constant progress. Shortly after the 1991/92 season had begun, Mick Murphy was able to persuade his friend and namesake Alex Murphy, to take over as coach of the club. At the time, the first team found itself in the third tier of a restructured competition. But by the end of the season Murphy, who had won just about every other honour in the game as both player and coach, was adding the Division 3 championship to his collection.

More trophy success followed in the next season when Huddersfield won a one off European Championship tournament in Barcelona and in 1995 the first team reached the final of the second division premiership competition at Old Trafford. By this time the club had been forced to say a sad farewell to the old Fartown stadium, which had been its home since 1878. Yet after a brief spell sharing Huddersfield Town’s home ground, Leeds Road, both Football and Rugby clubs moved to the newly built McAlpine Stadium. The state of the art venue was a joint venture by the council in association with the two clubs and provided a perfect platform from which a place in the newly launched Super League could be sought.