25th Anniversary Series

25th September 2020

Picture by Hector McNeil

The last month has seen a number of major anniversaries for Rugby League. August 29th saw the 125th anniversary of the meeting at The George Hotel in Huddersfield, which led to the breakaway of clubs from the Rugby Football Union and, consequently the formation of the sport of Rugby League.

September 14th saw the 40th anniversary of Fulham’s first game, beating the recently relegated Wigan at Craven Cottage.

Fifteen years later to the day, the Student Rugby League Old, won the Hemel 10s, a competition that preceded the start of the season for the sport in the south of England. Indeed the sport as a whole played their games from August through to May, the summer game only coming in 1996.

The Student Rugby League Old Boys became London Skolars and we’re proud to celebrate our 25th anniversary, even if we can’t celebrate it the way we’d intended at the start of 2020.

The club had warmed up for the start of the London League season with three pre-season friendlies. Maybe anticipating the long journeys they’d have to make in later seasons, the first pre-season friendly was in Cumbria against Broughton Red Rose on August 3rd. The Cumbrian connection came through John Risman, who played full-back for Fulham in their first game and along with his brother Bev did much for the game in the capital, especially the student game.

Elsewhere in the world of Rugby League at that time, Hunter Mariners were launched in Australia, Nottingham dropped out of the National Conference League in the close season, Northampton doing so early into the season, and the sport as a whole was coming to terms with the impending move of the professional game in the UK to summer. The centenary season also saw the Royal Mail issue a set of commemorative stamps, including one of the Risman’s father Gus, who was one the first players inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame after an illustrious career for Salford, Wigan, Wales and Great Britain.

We don’t have a record of who scored in the 22-12 defeat, but the report in the Hackney Gazette name checked winger Mark Ruffaro as the man-of-the match and the report carried an appeal for more players. The following week saw a trial game against East London. Charlie Oyebade scored a hat-trick in the 52-12 win over East London. September saw a 62-18 win in a friendly against Ealing.

That was followed by the Hemel 10s, a pre-cursor of the 9s competitions that developed at the start of this century. Charlie Oyebade was the player of the tournament, with the Old Boys beating Fulham Travellers in the final.

The picture commemorating the win shows the side still waiting for their first kit. Like many of the pictures of that era, there is one significant person missing. Club founder Hector McNeil was taking the picture. Two of the players in that squad went onto play in Skolars’ first season in the professional ranks eight years later, Oyebade and Bobby Brown.

We’ll be posting match reports from the inaugural 1995/96 season over the next few months, along with a few other memories and viewpoints.

If you have any details of that first season, or any photos or memories, please send then to info@skolarsrl.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Hemel 10s

L to R, back row: Mark Ruffaro, Alan Knight, Martin Snell, Jason Samuel, Hakeem Ashorobi, Nigel Kitching, Darren Williams, Gabriel Parker.

L to R, front row: Mike Carter, Bobby Brown, Aaron Dann, Lee Mason-Ellis, Charlie Oyebade, Jim Pashley.

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