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The Rochdale Hornets are a professional rugby league club from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England, competing in the League 1, the third tier of European rugby league. The Rochdale Hornets are one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world's first rugby league clubs. Their main local rivals are Oldham, Salford Red Devils, Swinton Lions, Halifax and the Huddersfield Giants.
|Full name||Rochdale Hornets Rugby League Football Club|
|Minor premierships||2 (2013 2016)|
|Challenge Cups||1 (1922)|
Early years – the 19th century edit
A Rochdale Athletic Club was formed in 1866 and held its first festival on the cricket ground at Merefield. Rugby football first took place as an organised game about 1866 or 1867, when the Rochdale Football Club was formed by a magistrate and numerous business owners and self-employed men. Within a year they were all playing alongside new members when working-class men were allowed to join as well. Other clubs quickly followed, among them Rochdale Wasps and Rochdale Juniors.
In 1871, Rochdale Juniors and Rakebank merged to form Rochdale United. On 20 April 1871, the directors of Rochdale Wasps, Rochdale United and Rochdale Football Club met at the Roebuck Hotel in the town centre to form a senior team that would represent the town. Rochdale Wasps. Rochdale Butterflies and Rochdale Grasshoppers were suggested as names for the new club before Rochdale Hornets was agreed on. The original team colours were amber and black.
In 1875, Hornets played at Mr R. Kershaw's Athletic Grounds in Vavasour Street, and later at Rochdale Cricket Ground. The club very quickly took a leading position in the game in Lancashire. Hornets had an open door approach to membership and were able to insist on gate money as they played on an enclosed field.
In June 1879, Rochdale Rovers threw in their lot with the Hornets, and it was in this year that the club first adopted the white jersey. A ground was taken at Oakenrod for the 1879–80 season but owing to poor gates, Rochdale Hornets returned to Rochdale Cricket Club ground.
In 1881 no fewer than 57 rugby clubs played in Rochdale and district, fielding 80 teams regularly. By the 1890s, the players were almost all working class.
Rochdale moved to the Athletic Grounds in Milnrow Road, which opened on 9 June 1894. Their first game at their new home took place in September 1894 against Crompton.
They were founder members of the Northern Union in 1895. Hornets made a poor start under the new regime and finished bottom of the league table, for a good number of years they lost many more matches than they won.
Early 20th century edit
They became tenants of the Athletics Grounds in 1900. Between the 7–9 March 1901, a three-day bazaar was held at the town hall where around £1,000 was raised to help pay for the club's debts. Incidents from the game played on 22 March 1901 resulted in the ground being suspended by the Northern Union.
The players went on strike on 29 March 1902 as empty coffers meant that they went unpaid.
Rochdale purchased the Athletics Grounds in 1913. Hornets won the Lancashire County Cup in 1911 and 1914. Between 10 October 1914 and 6 March 1915, Hornets played 25 games without defeat, shortly after this streak was broken by a defeat by Wigan but they would finish fourth in the table. Hornets beat Broughton Moor 75–13 in a cup-tie on 13 March 1915; it was their biggest margin of victory since 1871. Twenty-five Rochdale players enlisted for the First World War, three of whom are known to have died, Sergeant Twigg, Archie Field (Arras 1917) and Walter Roman (Somme 1916) (Rochdale Captain).
Rugby League came back to Rochdale following the Great War on Christmas Day 1918 when Rochdale played a friendly game. In the half-season of the spring of 1919, Rochdale Hornets not only won the Lancashire League but also carried off the Lancashire County Cup.
Rochdale's biggest win against a senior club came on 27 March 1920 when Wakefield Trinity were beaten 64-nil.
The annual Law Cup, then known as the Infirmaries' Cup, was first contested against neighbours Oldham on 7 May 1921. Hornets played six games in a fortnight before falling to their biggest ever defeat 79–2 at the hands of Hull FC. Hornets changed their colours from green and black to red, white and blue as the green and black strip was deteriorating in the wash.
The club's record attendance was set at 26,664 in 1922 when Oldham were the visitors for a third round Challenge Cup match. Hornets won the Northern Union Challenge Cup in 1922 by beating Hull 10–9 at Headingley, Leeds. That was Hornets' one and only Challenge Cup final. Due to the ferocity of their play, their pack of forwards was known as "the Terrible Six".
Hornets were formed into a limited company on 31 May 1929.
On 4 October 1930, Stanley Baldwin, Hornets' winger was fatally injured during a match with Oldham.
Owing to a financial crisis in 1931, the Athletic Ground was offered for sale and all the players put on the transfer list. A fire destroyed the stadium's main stand, dressing rooms and offices on 18 September 1935. A new stand, built over the ashes of the old, was opened on Saturday 7 March 1936 for the match against Liverpool Stanley. Another financial crisis in 1938 led to further talks about selling the ground and a further crisis in 1939 resulted in the creation of a members' club.
Hornets dropped out of the wartime Lancashire League, their last match a 12–4 defeat against Salford at the Athletic Grounds on 11 May 1940.
An appeal went out to supporters in July 1945 for help in renovating the ground, pitch and premises so that rugby league could restart at the Athletic Grounds after the war. On 25 August 1945, Hornets resumed with an away game at Craven Park, Barrow which they lost 5–14. The first Infirmaries' Cup game since 1938 was played at the Athletic Grounds on 24 August 1946, in which Hornets were beaten by Oldham.
On 29 March 1947, Hornets ended a run of 14 consecutive defeats with a 3–0 home win over Halifax. Hornets played in green and black for the first time in 26 years on 13 December 1947 in a match against Wigan. Thereafter they used the colours as a change strip in the event of a colour clash.
In 1947 and 1958, Rochdale Hornets made it to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, but both times Wigan ended their hopes of a Wembley Final.
On 24 October 1953, Hornets' second row Ralph Slater was fatally injured in an A-team game at the Athletic Grounds against Oldham A.
Rochdale's highest attendance in a league match was set on Saturday, 16 October 1954 when Hornets lost 4–18 to local rivals Oldham in front of 19,654 spectators. Hornets played their first game at Spotland in 1954 when a one-off game against Keighley was played there.
Rochdale Hornets brought in a Fijian contingent in the early 1960s, starting with Orisi Dawai and Josefa Levula in 1961 and, later Apisai Toga. This has resulted in Rochdale having the largest Fijian community in the UK, outside of London.
Frank Myler arrived at Hornets in May 1971 to take up the position of player-coach with the Rochdale Hornets from May 1971. They reached a Players No 6 Final in 1974. Myler left Hornets in October 1974.
Kel Coslett was coach between 1976 and 1979.
1980s and early 1990s edit
In the 1980s, things took a turn for the worse with the crowds virtually disappearing.
Eric Hughes coached Rochdale for the 1987–88 season. In 1987 both Rochdale Hornets and Rochdale A.F.C. were in financial trouble. Hornets were banned from signing players in November after failing to pay a transfer fee. Deep in debt, Rochdale accepted Morrisons £2.7m offer for the Athletic Grounds and following the sale of the land, moved to Rochdale A.F.C.'s stadium in the Spotland area of the town at the end of the 1988 season. The stadium became jointly owned by Hornets, Rochdale Council and Rochdale A.F.C. In October 1988, Rochdale were saved by the local council with a £60,000 loan.
In 1989, Hornets were promoted from the Second Division to the top tier. The club's record attendance at Spotland was set at 8,150 when Hornets played Oldham on Boxing Day 1989.
In September 1990, Neil Holding briefly coached Hornets.
In 1991, Hornets appeared in the final of the Lancashire Cup.
Summer era edit
On 9 May 1996, Rochdale sacked their coach, Steve Gibson, after taking just one point from their first six games of the First Division season.
Deryck Fox became player-coach in May 1998, and made an immediate impact. A ten-match losing sequence was ended as Hornets won at Featherstone Rovers in Fox's first match in charge. However, Hornets ended that 1998 campaign in next to bottom position in Division One.
In October 1998, Karl Marriott died following a training session and a couple of months later Roy Powell died in similar circumstances. Hornets struggled early in the campaign when they occupied bottom spot for a couple of weeks. They recovered slightly and had moved up to 15th position, fourth bottom, by late June.
On 30 June 1999, it was announced that Deryck Fox was no longer Rochdale's coach. During his 13 months as Hornets' coach, the club played 38 matches. They won 12, drew one and lost the remaining 25. Bob Eccles took over as caretaker coach.
Martin Hall took up the position of coach at Rochdale Hornets in November 2000. He stepped in after the shock resignation of Steve Deakin who returned to Keighley after a few months in charge. He took Rochdale to two consecutive third-place finishes in the Northern Ford Premiership. Hall departed along with all the players after not renewing his contract after his failed bid to take over the club.
Bobbie Goulding arrived as player-coach in December 2003. He was in charge of Rochdale Hornets for two seasons, twice being nominated for coach of the year. He left in November 2005, citing frustration at the club's financial problems and his lack of a proper contract.
On 13 March 2005, Hornets set an all-time Rugby League record when they defeated the amateur side Illingworth 120–4 in the Challenge Cup. This is the highest score ever achieved by a team in the cup. The biggest winning margin is still that of Huddersfield, who beat the amateur side Swinton Park 119–2 in 1914.
Darren Abram was appointed head coach two weeks later. Abram was dismissed on 9 July 2007 after a run of defeats which left the club facing relegation. Shaun Gartland was placed in temporary charge.
Bobbie Goulding was appointed as Rochdale Hornets coach for the second time in September 2007 and relieved of his duties in May 2008 after a run of six consecutive losses.
On 13 January 2009, shareholders voted to put Rochdale Hornets into administration after debts ordered by HM Revenue and Customs accumulated £55,000. An Industrial and Provident Society (a co-operative) was created and recognised by the Rugby Football League, and the Hornets were re-founded. The co-operative was initially created around a core of loyal fans, and membership is open to all. The co-op operates on a one-member, one-vote principle.
Darren Shaw departed the club at the end of the 2009 season and was replaced by ex St Helens player John Stankevitch in early November 2009.
Stankevitch was given the difficult task of recruiting a competitive squad of players from those available that had not already been recruited elsewhere and a slow start to the 2010 Northern Rail Cup followed.
However, the club went on to exceed all expectations and finish 5th in the table giving them a play-off position for the first time in years. The team were eventually eliminated in the semi-finals of the competition.
Stankevitch signed a new contract in July 2010 in preparation for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and began the club's re-emergence with the recontracting of the majority of his squad.
In 2013 Rochdale Hornets appointed Ian Talbot as head coach. He led Hornets to their first trophy in 91 years when they won the Kingstone Press Championship 1 play-off final defeating local rivals Oldham at Leigh Sports Village. Ian Talbot stood down as head coach at Hornets at the end of the 2015 season to take up a position at St. Helens.
Talbot's replacement was Alan Kilshaw who had had a successful stint coaching in Australia.
In Alan Kilshaws 1st season (2016) Rochdale Hornets defeated Toulouse Olympique XIII in the promotion final in Toulouse, France to become Kingstone Press League 1 Champions. This was the 1st time Rochdale Hornets had been Champions of a division since 1919, a gap of 97 years.
Having successfully retained Championship status in (2017) Rochdale Hornets again avoided relegation in (2018) due to the lifeline of a league restructure. The club sadly struggled to sustain its position in the second tier winning just one league game all season and finally succumbed to relegation at the end of a turbulent (2019). One positive during (2019) saw the return of former player Matt Calland as head coach.
In the closed season the club faced up to the reality and limitations of its co-operative ownership model. CEO Steve Kerr who had been mandated to seek investment approached former Swinton Lions Chairman Andy Mazey. Following a series of talks Andy headed up a consortium to include club president Paul Ormerod, and his former Swinton associates Tony Sheridan, Richard Hayes and Peter Smith. A proposal to take over the club and convert it back into private ownership was tabled and a special resolution passed on December 23, 2019, to change the business model after a number of presentations and supporter engagement sessions.
In June 2020 it was announced the conversion of Rochdale Hornets RLFC Society Ltd (IPS) to Rochdale Hornets RLFC Ltd (PLC) has formally completed.
1894–1988: Athletic Grounds edit
Rochdale moved to the Athletic Grounds in 1894. Their first game at their new home took place in September 1894 against Crompton. Between 1896 and 1900, Rochdale Association Football Club played at the Athletics Grounds. Hornets became tenants of the ground in 1900 and purchased the ground in 1913.
Hornets borrowed £3,000 from the Rugby Football League in 1954 to build a new covered outer boundary wall and new turnstiles for the main entrance and Waithlands. The highest attendance for a league match was set on Saturday 16 October 1954, Hornets lost 4–18 to local rivals Oldham in front of 19,654 spectators. In 1987 both Rochdale Hornets and Rochdale A.F.C. were in financial trouble. First to receive an offer for their ground, Hornets accepted Morrison's £2.6m offer for the Athletic Grounds and, following the sale of the land bought a half share in Rochdale A.F.C.'s Spotland Stadium, thus saving both clubs.
1988-present: Spotland Stadium edit
Spotland Stadium is a sports venue located at Willbutts Lane in the Spotland suburb of Rochdale, Greater Manchester. It is currently home to Rochdale A.F.C. and Rochdale Hornets R.F.L.C. It has a capacity of 10,249. The ground has four stands: the Co-Operative Stand (or Main Stand), the Thwaites Beer Stand (the Sandy Lane End), the T.D.S Stand (Pearl Street end) and the Westrose Leisure Stand (the Willbutts Lane Stand). All are fully seated, apart from the Sandy Lane End, which is a small terrace behind one of the goals.
2022 squad edit
|First team squad||Coaching staff|
Updated: 17 December 2021
2024 transfers edit
|Joe Hartley||Oldham R.L.F.C.||September 2023|
- For all Rochdale Hornets players with a Wikipedia article see Category:Rochdale Hornets players.
Also see Category:Rochdale Hornets coaches
- Trevor Hall (1936?)
- Jim Sullivan (1958 – 1961)
- Joe Warham
- Frank Myler (May 1971 – October 1974)
- Graham Starkey (October 1974 – November 1975)
- Henry Delooze (November 1975 – November 1976)
- Kel Coslett (November 1976 – August 1979)
- Paul Longstaff (September 1979 – May 1981)
- Terry Fogerty (May 1981 – January 1982)
- Dick Bonser (January 1982 – May 1982)
- Bill Kirkbride (June 1982 – September 1984)
- Charlie Birdsall (September 1984 – April 1986)
- Eric Fitzsimons (June 1986 – June 1987)
- Eric Hughes (June 1987 – June 1988)
- Jim Crellin (June 1988 – June 1989)
- Allan Agar (July 1989 – January 1991)
- Brian Juliff – Agar's assistant 1 game in Jan 1991
(42–0 at Castleford)
- Neil Holding (January 1991 – April 1991)
- Stan Gittins (April 1991 – January 1993)
- Peter Regan (January 1993 – October 1993)
- Steve Gibson (October 1993 – May 1996)
- Shane Tupaea (May 1996 – April 1998)
- Deryck Fox (May 1998 – June 1999)
- Bob Eccles (July 1999 - November 1999)
- Steve Linnane (December 1999 – June 2000)
- Steve Deakin (August 2000 – October 2000)
- Martin Hall (November 2000 – November 2003)
- Bobbie Goulding (December 2003 – November 2005)
- Darren Abram (November 2005 – July 2007)
- Shaun Gartland (July 2007 – September 2007)
- Bobbie Goulding (September 2007 – May 2008)
- Darren Shaw (May 2008 – October 2009)
- John Stankevitch (October 2009 – October 2012)
- Ian Talbot (October 2012 – September 2015)
- Alan Kilshaw (October 2015 – 2019)
- Carl Forster (2019)
- Matt Calland (2019–2022)
- Gary Thornton (2023–present)
Super League era edit
|Season||League||Play-offs||Challenge Cup||Other competitions||Name||Tries||Name||Points|
|Division||P||W||D||L||F||A||Pts||Pos||Top try scorer||Top point scorer|
|1999||Northern Ford Premiership||28||9||0||19||539||724||18||15th||R4|
|2000||Northern Ford Premiership||28||10||0||18||563||696||20||13th||R5|
|2001||Northern Ford Premiership||28||21||0||7||865||433||42||3rd||R5|
|2002||Northern Ford Premiership||27||19||1||7||809||582||39||3rd||R4|
|2003||National League One||18||13||0||5||647||477||26||3rd||Lost in Semi-final||R4|
|2004||National League One||18||7||1||10||472||587||15||8th||R4|
|2005||National League One||18||9||1||8||468||502||19||6th||Lost in Elimination Playoffs||R4|
|2006||National League One||18||8||0||10||462||435||16||5th||Lost in Elimination Playoffs||R5|
|2007||National League One||18||3||0||15||302||700||10||9th||R5|
|2008||National League Two||22||10||1||11||715||610||36||7th||R4|
|2010||Championship 1||20||10||0||10||630||498||37||5th||Lost in Semi-final||R3|
|2012||Championship 1||18||9||0||9||496||462||28||5th||Lost in Elimination Playoffs||R4|
|2013||Championship 1||16||10||0||6||538||375||32||3rd||Won in Final||R4|
|2016||League 1||21||16||1||4||709||440||33||2nd||Won in Promotion Final||R5|
|2019||League 1||1||1||0||0||29||14||2||6th||R5||1895 Cup||R2|
|2020||League 1||League abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic||R5|
|2021||League 1||17||8||1||8||505||488||17||7th||Did not participate|
|2022||League 1||20||13||0||7||772||511||26||5th||Lost in Preliminary Final||R4|
Law Cup edit
This section needs to be updated.(October 2023)
Women's team edit
In 2014 and 2016, a Rochdale Hornets women's team took part in the Women's Challenge Cup, but did not progress past the first round on either occasion. In 2019, Rochdale Hornets relaunched the women's team entering the League 1 Division and playing their home fixtures at Rochdale Mayfield ARLFC. After losing their first three games they recording their first victory with a 28–26 over Whitley Bay Barbarians. In the 2019 Challenge Cup Rochdale were knocked out 56–12 by Barrow in the first round. In 2020, they were due to make their first appearance in the second round of Challenge Cup against Keighley Cougars (having been given a first-round bye). However, the competition was suspended before the match could take place. 
- The Middle Class: A History by Lawrence James, Abacus Editions, 2008 – ISBN 978-0349115436
- "Operational Rules". RFL. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
- "Rochdale Hornets". eventbrite. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Aldred, Tanya. "World Cup romance comes to Rochdale with a dash of Fiji offered in the Pennines". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- Cartwright, Phil. "Rugby League World Cup 2013: Fiji and Rochdale united by sport". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". Rochdalehornets.com. 14 March 2005. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
-  Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Hornets voted into administration". BBC News. 13 January 2009.
- "Joe Hartley signs for 2024". Rochdale Hornets. 19 September 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "HORNETS PROMOTED IN TOULOUSE | Rochdale Hornets RLFC". Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
- "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". Rochdalehornets.com. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- "Womens Round Up". Rugby-League.com. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Women's Challenge Cup: round one draw made". Rugby-League.com. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Rochdale Hornets Women's Team relaunches". Rochdale Hornets. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Hornets Women to make history this Sunday". Rochdale Hornets. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Hornets Women grab first win". Rochdale Hornets. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Women's Rugby League - Coral Challenge Cup". Rugby Football League. 5 May 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Challenge Cup men's and women's draws confirmed". Rochdale Hornets. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "Hull KR to host Hull FC in Coral Women's Challenge Cup second round". Rugby-League.com. 8 March 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
- "RFL and Super League joint statement on season suspension". Rugby-League.com. 16 March 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.