Whitehaven RLFC

Whitehaven RLFC was formed at a meeting held in the Miners' Welfare Club at Kells from the Whitehaven Miners' Welfare team in 1948 and shortly afterwards were admitted into the Northern Rugby Football Union by just three votes. Whitehaven took over the Miners' Welfare lease at the Recreation Ground. In their first game Haven beat Hull F.C. 5–0. There was a "disappointing" turnout of only 9,000 because of the pouring rain; in those days the supporters' club had 4,000 members. The early Whitehaven team were nicknamed "the Colliers" because of the Miners' Welfare connection.

In a Britain that still was still recovering from wartime rationing and austerity Whitehaven gradually picked itself up. Billy Little came to the Recreation Ground in 1950 as coach at a time when the fledgling Haven club were struggling to compete in the professional league. His tenure as coach signalled an era of progress and improvement. In 1951, the first of a long line of players from Australasia joined Haven as Neville Emery became player-coach. Under his guidance the club built a team that could compete with the best.

On Saturday 20 October 1956, Whitehaven defeated the Australian tourists 14–11 before a crowd of 10,917 at the Recreation Ground. Later that season the club came within minutes of a Wembley appearance when they lost 10–9 to Leeds in a Challenge Cup semi-final before a 50,000 crowd at the Odsal Stadium, featuring players such as the legendary Dick Huddart and full back John McKeown. The end of that season saw Emery return home to be replaced by Edward Gibson, who rebuilt the team, and in 1959/60 the club finished 6th in the league their highest ever position.

The club's record attendance was set in 1960 when 18,650 spectators turned up for a third round Challenge Cup game against Wakefield Trinity. Despite this, the 1960s were a period of decline as the club struggled on the field, though in 1965 the club defeated the touring New Zealanders 12–5, the winning try scored by John Coupe. It wasn't until 1970 that the club emerged from this lean spell. Under the coaching of Sol Roper they topped the league table for part of the 1969/70 season. Once again the club defeated the game's top clubs like St. Helens, Wigan and Bradford Northern at the Recreation Ground.

Jeff Bawden in 1971/72, his first season as head coach, was able to take Whitehaven to Central Park and beat Wigan on their own patch for the first time in Whitehaven's history. The club progressed over the next few years and in 1973 acquired floodlights. However success was once again denied at the last hurdle as the club suffered semi-final defeats in both the Lancashire County Cup and the John Player Cup.

Phil Kitchin became coach in 1980. Two promotions to the top division came in the 1980s, and during this period the club produced a batch of internationals in scrum half Arnold 'Boxer' Walker, forward Vince Fox and centre Vince Gribbin. Kitchen was sacked in 1981 and Arnold Walker became player-coach before also being sacked as coach. By the end of the 1980s the club found itself back in Division Two.

Whitehaven faced a financial crisis in 1992. Eleven local businessmen, Copeland Borough Council and Albright & Wilson joined forces to form Whitehaven 1992 Ltd, the holding company which owned 70 per cent of the shares.

When Super League was proposed Whitehaven were supposed to merge with Barrow, Carlisle and Workington Town to form a Cumbria club to be based at Workington, that would take part in the new summer competition. This was resisted by the club and fans alike. The merger issue resurfaced in 2000, Whitehaven were so heavily in debt that a merger with Workington seemed the only means of survival. However, the board of directors rejected a merger proposal with Workington Town and then resigned en masse. Paul Cullen arrived as coach in September 2000 taking over from Kevin Tamati. This heralded upward progression for Whitehaven. The club made steady progress and earned a place in National League 1 for 2003. Cullen left in August 2002 to manage Warrington. Peter Smith took over as coach with help from Peter Roe before Steve McCormack was appointed in 2004. Whitehaven dropped the Warriors epithet and went back to being plain Whitehaven.

In 2004, they were undefeated at home in the league and made it to the semi-final of the Arriva Trains Cup losing to the eventual winners Leigh Centurions. They also narrowly lost out on promotion to Super League after losing 32–16 in extra time to Leigh in the NL1 grand final. The following year despite Castleford being red hot favourites for promotion Whitehaven managed to win their first piece of silverware when he took the National League One League Leader's trophy, however they were unable to take this success into the grand final, where they were heavily beaten by Castleford.

Steve McCormack left to manage Widnes and was replaced by Dave Rotheram in November 2005. In 2006, Haven finished 4th and reached the National League 1 play-offs, only to be beaten 24–20 by Steve McCormack's Widnes in a hard fought semi-final. They were knocked out of the Northern Rail Cup at the quarter-final stage by Hull Kingston Rovers who would eventually be promoted to the Engage Super League that season.

In late 2006 they became the first ever winners of the pre-season Ike Southward Trophy, beating neighbours Workington Town 18–6 at the Recreation Ground. Haven made it to the final of the Northern Rail Cup for the first time in 2007 but lost 54–6 to Widnes.

Whitehaven appointed Paul Crarey as their new coach in October 2007 as Dave Rotheram left to manage Workington Town.

In early 2008 Gerard Stokes was offered the job of coaching Haven, after coach Paul Crarey left the club citing personal health issues. Stokes led Haven to the play-offs during his first season in charge. However a disastrous 13-game losing streak saw the club relegated to Championship 1 at the end of the 2010 season. Following relegation Haven went into administration and re-formed under the name 'Whitehaven 2010' as a consequence Haven were deducted nine points for next season's Championship 1.

Club legend and record try-scorer David Seeds was appointed head coach and started the season unbeaten, wiping out the nine-point deduction in the first few games but fell short of promotion being knocked out in the play-offs by Doncaster. Following the game David Seeds resigned as coach and Les Ashe resigned as assistant coach.

Towards the end of 2011 Haven appointed Don Gailer from the North Devils in Australia as new head coach, with the remit being promotion to the Championship. Haven finished 4th, thus securing the final promotion berth after Doncaster, Barrow and local rivals Workington Town. Gailer was sacked just two weeks after securing promotion following a rift between the coach and Haven players.

In September 2012 Haven announced that ex Castleford coach Dave Woods would coach the side in 2013, Haven immediately set about strengthening for 2013 signing prop Paul Jackson from Super League side Castleford. Prior to the start of the season Haven announced a dual registration link-up with Super League side St Helens, during the season Ade Gardner, Paul Clough, Tommy Makinson, Carl Forster, Jordan Hand, Joe Greenwood, Anthony Walker and Adam Swift would turn out for the club with Swift in particular impressing from fullback. Haven started well, winning the opening two games before losing at home to Leigh Centurions in front of the Premier Sports cameras. Haven would finally break a 7-game losing streak against local rivals Workington Town winning 29–18 on Sunday 23 June before securing a place in the Championship for the following season.

Steve Deakin was appointed as head coach in September 2014. A mass exodus of players followed; out of a squad of twenty-four, eighteen left and Haven were left with six players Deakin resigned for personal reasons a week before the first game of the season and player Brett Seymour took temporary charge. James Coyle was then appointed as player-coach on a caretaker basis with Brett Seymour.

Whitehaven Rugby League Football Club, 1948
Whitehaven Rugby League Football Club


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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