Worksop College rugby - the coaches
Read about some of the first class players that have been masters at Worksop College over the years - including two British Lions and three England players.
N.A. York playing for Combined Services
It is often said that a school is only as good as its teachers and sports teams are only as good as their coaches – Worksop has been blessed with incredible teachers over the years, many of whom also doubled as games coaches. As a relatively small school, we have always punched above our weight on the games field and as part of my research into my book about 100 years of rugby at the College, I have been researching into the rugby playing masters that contributed to this attitude. Here’s a few bits people may find interesting…
Rugby first came (officially) to Worksop in 1921; the first head coach of note was Herb Jacob. Formerly of Cranleigh – he was an Oxford University Blue, Blackheath England winger. He was an extremely gifted footballer and highly regarded at the time. He is credited with bringing an expansive style of rugby to Worksop, akin to Uppingham and Sherborne – needless to say these two schools were at the forefront of public schools rugby of the day. By the early 1930s Worksop had regular representation in the English, Scottish and Northern public schoolboy teams (selection criteria of the day allowed a boy to play for Scotland if one of their parents was Scottish) and the Worksop teams of the era were regularly mentioned as the best in the north and midlands.
When Jacob returned to Cranleigh in 1930, the head coach role fell to C.S. Harden of Queens College Belfast. Harden had previously had trials for Ireland (his father – also C.S. Harden – was a renowned international referee and sporting administrator), but it was coaching that was his forte and he took over the Worksop 1st XV upon Jacob’s departure and led them with distinction. An example of his impact can be seen in 1937 when 30+ Worksop College boys played representative rugby in the holidays (and this only included national, regional and county teams) – some boys only able to find a place in the College 2nd XV were being highly touted in the press of the time. The great unbeaten College XVs of 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1942 were coached by Harden and players such as N.M. Hall (St Mary’s Hospital and England), A.L. Evans (Roslyn Park and England), J.S. Pinkney (Hartlepool Rovers, British Army and England trials), P.E.F. Rhodes (Leicester and England trials) and R.V. Thompson (Sale and England trials) were all produced whilst he was at the helm.
Harden had taken those early principles instilled by Herb Jacob and nurtured Worksop College into one of the finest rugby schools in the country. However, that success can also be attributed to another member of staff who joined in 1933. N.A. York formerly of Northampton Grammar School for Boys, Cambridge University and Northampton RUFC was a fine player and had been an England trialist on no fewer than three occasions (and was especially unlucky not to be capped). He was a large, powerful and skilful forward and from 1933 took on the coaching of the Worksop forwards. It is no coincidence that Worksop had its best years when both Harden and York combined forces leading the coaching of the College 1st XV.
Harden left the College in 1945 and York in 1947 (the latter to Welbeck College), but the standard of rugby remained high, those early seeds continuing the bear fruit. 1954 saw the arrival of two more fine staff players in the form of Jeff Butterfield (Loughborough College, Northampton, England and British Isles) and Ricky Winn (Oxford University, Northampton and Barbarians). In the intervening years, Worksop had continued to fare well against schoolboy opposition and had reached the last 4 at the Public Schools Sevens in 1949, but under Butterfield standards improved further. As early as 1955 Worksop had recorded an unbeaten season against schoolboy sides; this followed by being losing finalists at the Public Schools Sevens in 1959. Worksop also started seeing representation on the England Public Schools side once again in the 1950s/1960s, it is unknown whether this was because Butterfield was on the selections panel…
Next came Alan Old (Middlesbrough, Barbarians, England and British Lions) who was a member of the MCR between 1972-1976.
A rather fine list of players including two British Lions, three England representatives, two Barbarians and three Blues – a very fine list indeed!