STEVE Simpson and Sean Fenwick went back to school to realise their Rugby League dream – now, 18 years on, they have graduated with flying colours.
The puzzled folk of Barnoldswick thought it was plain daft to set up an Rugby League club in football heartland back in 1994.
But with the backing of West Craven School, the pair slowly went about building a club – a club that today is thriving after celebrating it’s 18th anniversary.
“In the early days most people thought we had lost the plot, trying to set up a rugby league club in Barnoldswick,” recalls Steve who is now club president.
“It was thought it was too much of a football area, with no tradition or demand for a rugby league club.
“However with help from the school and its staff, the numbers at training began to grow.”
Steve said the headteacher at the time Will Montgomery – a big Rugby League fan – let them use the school as a base while PE teacher Malcolm Rochford helped out with the coaching.
Prior to setting up their own club in Barnoldswick, Simpson and Fenwick used to take their sons and a few of their friends to play for Keighley Cougar Cubs in the West Riding League.
But as numbers began to increase and there were too many to transport, they came up with a plan to set up their own club.
“In the first year, all the players were from West Craven School so I arranged games against other school sides” said Simpson.
“It was important to bring the lads along slowly, while building up their rugby league knowledge.”
In those early days, games were played against South Craven School at Crosshills and St Augustine’s in Whalley.
Friendlies continued and numbers increased.
The following year, with Glynn Elwick and Ken Humphries helping with coaching, the club played friendlies against league sides from both Lancashire and Yorkshire an eventually entered a league.
The breakthrough came in 2000 when the club’s under 14s won the league.
“The team had finished bottom of the table the previous year but the next year they won the league,” said Simpson “It felt so good winning the league after all the doubters said we wouldn’t succeed in Barnoldswick.” Many of those young players have now gone on to become experienced mem-bers of West Craven Warriors open age team and some have even gone on to play the game at professional level.
The adult team is now coached by Mark Smith, and Adrian Marsden, both former West Craven players. The team has slowly worked its way up the seven Division Pennine leagues, to a point where it currently sits near the top of Division Three.
As the club grew, it became obvious it needed its own venue.
Simpson identified the old pitch and put course at Victory Park as a possible venue – and thanks to the hard work of all involved the club boast facilities that include a purpose built pitch, training area and changing room with showers.
It has been a real team effort to get West Craven were they are now – and Simpson was full of praise for chairman Richard Milner.
He said: “As President of the club, I am very proud of what Richard has done for the Warriors.
“He never stops working on behalf of the Club, and is well assisted by Club Secretary Roy Smith and the Committee.”
He added: “From very humble beginnings, the club continues to develop.
“I would like to say a big thank you to all the players, past and present.
“And to the many people who have worked so hard behind the scenes and continue to do so.”
The club now has senior teams, a ladies team, teams from under sevens to under 12s with plans to set up a girls under 12s team.
* For more details about the club, contact Richard Milner on 07731 112334.