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.[2][3] 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.

Rochdale Hornets RLFC
Club information
Full nameRochdale Hornets Rugby League Football Club
Founded1871; 152 years ago (1871) [1]
Current details
ChairmanAndy Mazey
CoachGary Thornton
CaptainDuane Straugheir
CompetitionLeague 1
2023 season7th
Current season
Home colours
Away colours
Minor premierships2 (2013 2016)
Challenge Cups1 (1922)

History edit

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.

Rochdale Hornets team of 1875

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 Hornets then refused to travel to Dewsbury on 1 October 1904 on account of a smallpox outbreak, and were subsequently fined £20.

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.

Post-war edit

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.[4][5]

In 1965, Hornets appeared in the final of the Lancashire County Cup when a 19,000 crowd saw them lose to Warrington at Knowsley Road, St. Helens.

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.

Steve Linnane became head coach in December 1999 but quit in June 2000 to become assistant coach at Super League club Halifax.

Steve Deakin joined Rochdale Hornets as head coach in August 2000 before rejoining Keighley as head coach in September 2000 when incumbent Karl Harrison left to become assistant coach at Bradford.

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.[6] 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.

Darren Shaw was appointed as Rochdale Hornets coach in May 2008 after a previous spell as assistant coach under Bobbie Goulding in his first spell as player coach in 2003.[7]

On 13 January 2009, shareholders voted to put Rochdale Hornets into administration after debts ordered by HM Revenue and Customs accumulated £55,000.[8] 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.[citation needed]

Stadiums edit

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.

The highest attendance at the Athletic Grounds was the 1924 Challenge Cup final between Oldham and Wigan when 41,831 saw Wigan win 21–4.

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

2022 Rochdale Hornets Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice captain(s)

Updated: 17 December 2021
Source(s): 2022 Squad Numbers

2024 transfers edit


Player Club Contract Date
Joe Hartley Oldham R.L.F.C. September 2023[9]


Player Club Contract Date

Players edit

Coaches edit

Also see Category:Rochdale Hornets coaches

Seasons edit

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
1996 Division One 20 2 2 16 348 602 6 10th R5
1997 Division Two 20 15 0 5 680 347 30 2nd R4
1998 Division One 30 6 1 23 571 912 13 10th R4
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
2009 Championship 1 18 6 0 12 500 557 15 8th R5
2010 Championship 1 20 10 0 10 630 498 37 5th Lost in Semi-final R3
2011 Championship 1 20 12 0 8 652 498 40 4th ? R4
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
2014 Championship 26 7 0 19 509 919 25 12th R4
2015 Championship 1 22 14 8 0 731 459 28 6th R4
2016 League 1 21 16 1 4 709 440 33 2nd Won in Promotion Final R5
2017 Championship 23 7 1 15 457 680 15 9th R4
Championship Shield 30 8 1 21 548 963 17 5th
2018 Championship 23 4 0 19 327 926 8 12th R5
Championship Shield 30 6 0 24 465 1093 12 7th
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
2023 League 1 18 6 0 12 425 520 12 7th R3

Honours edit

Law Cup edit

The Law Cup is an annual match between Oldham Roughyeds and Rochdale Hornets, first contested on 7 May 1921. Including the 2008 fixture, Oldham have won 36 to Rochdale's 22 with 3 drawn games.[11]

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.[12][13] In 2019, Rochdale Hornets relaunched the women's team entering the League 1 Division and playing their home fixtures at Rochdale Mayfield ARLFC.[14][15] After losing their first three games they recording their first victory with a 28–26 over Whitley Bay Barbarians.[16] In the 2019 Challenge Cup Rochdale were knocked out 56–12 by Barrow in the first round.[17] 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).[18][19] However, the competition was suspended before the match could take place. [20]

References edit

  1. ^ The Middle Class: A History by Lawrence James, Abacus Editions, 2008 – ISBN 978-0349115436
  2. ^ "Operational Rules". RFL. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Rochdale Hornets". eventbrite. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  4. ^ Aldred, Tanya. "World Cup romance comes to Rochdale with a dash of Fiji offered in the Pennines". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  5. ^ Cartwright, Phil. "Rugby League World Cup 2013: Fiji and Rochdale united by sport". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". 14 March 2005. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  7. ^ [1] Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Hornets voted into administration". BBC News. 13 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Joe Hartley signs for 2024". Rochdale Hornets. 19 September 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  10. ^ "HORNETS PROMOTED IN TOULOUSE | Rochdale Hornets RLFC". Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Rochdale Hornets Rugby League : Onward Hornets Onward". Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Womens Round Up". 12 May 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Women's Challenge Cup: round one draw made". 6 April 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  14. ^ "Rochdale Hornets Women's Team relaunches". Rochdale Hornets. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  15. ^ "Hornets Women to make history this Sunday". Rochdale Hornets. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  16. ^ "Hornets Women grab first win". Rochdale Hornets. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  17. ^ "Women's Rugby League - Coral Challenge Cup". Rugby Football League. 5 May 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  18. ^ "Challenge Cup men's and women's draws confirmed". Rochdale Hornets. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  19. ^ "Hull KR to host Hull FC in Coral Women's Challenge Cup second round". 8 March 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  20. ^ "RFL and Super League joint statement on season suspension". 16 March 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2023.

External links edit