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Monday, 28 July 2014

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The only thing Bill took home was dirty kit!

whitehaven ru stalwart: Bill Anderson with a rugby cap dating from 1888

THE sight of Bill Anderson flying down the wing was an enduring delight for Whitehaven rugby fans — that was at The Playground, home of Whitehaven rugby union club.

The former Windscale physicist certainly put some atomic charge into the club’s three-quarter play. An accomplished finisher and goal kicker, W.G. Anderson rattled up more than 4,000 points in a distinguished career which lasted until the ripe old age of 55 when was donning the colours of the second and third teams.

Those 4,000 points would be worth a lot more today with the added value of the try. Anderson scored lots of them. Today, it’s a tally which must still rank him as one of the most prolific aggregate scorers in county rugby union.

In 1972-73 Bill was obviously at the height of his powers, scoring 386 points, which included 40 tries. It stands as a Whitehaven club record.

“W.G. Anderson has an astonishing and remarkable record for the number of points he has amassed over the years he has played for the club,” says the Whitehaven centenary brochure of 1976-77.

It also states: “The Whitehaven club have always been the exponents of open adventurous attacking play, hence they have been popular visitors to all grounds, identified by their adherence to living in the spirit of the attack.”

Major successes came their way when they won the Cumberland Cup in 1963 and 1969, ranking among the highlights of Bill’s career. No wonder, because the dashing left wing scored tries in both the finals, first against Carlisle at Workington and then against Wigton at Keswick.

For good measure, in 1963, the club also won the Wigton and Workington Sevens... on consecutive days.

These were halcyon days at The Playground. Bill rates the first team as arguably the greatest the club has ever had, also one of the best to be seen in the county.

No wonder when you look at some of the other names (and characters) such as: George Rumney, Reg Harrison, Ralph Edmonds, Wally Leach, Nobby Slack, Brian Calvin, Brian Atkinson, Len Barton and Reg Goodwin, his favourite centre partner. Younger brother Colin Anderson was also a noted stand-off playmaker with the club.

W.G. rates Leech and Barton as the two finest players he took the field with. Both were kingpins of the pack and excellent footballers.

“Len often used to say if Wally had played for a fashionable club he would have been capped for England,” recalled Bill.

“Len himself had two England trials, having played for Oxford and Waterloo, before coming up here to work at Sellafield. Nobby Slack, the hooker, was also outstanding in his position and we had the formidable presence of Brian Calvin in the second row. At one time we had five forwards in the county side.”

These were the days when the custom was for the winger, not the hooker, to throw in.

“It was one of my duties and it meant practising quite diligently, especially when you had someone like Brian Calvin in the lineout” said Bill.

“Some jumpers like Brian liked it thrown in low and fast but others like Arthur Green wanted it lobbed in the air.”

It is an important task (as the British and Irish Lions found to their cost last weekend) but W.G. Anderson’s main job was to score tries and kick goals.

Speed was one of his main attributes.

He added: “One thing I always did was run towards the corner flag. I didn’t come inside. Mind you, if there was someone inside like Wally Leach, I was expected to pass. I was never as fast as Ralph Edmonds who was on the other wing.”

Q: Did you have a sidestep or swerve?”

A: “Just in Cup or Shield finals!”

It all started for W.G. at Whitehaven Grammar. “I was hoping to play for the school senior side at scrum half but I bumped into a guy called Garratt, who was a year or two younger, and he got the first XV spot.”

The exceptional schoolboy player was Billy Garratt, who went on to captain Whitehaven RL in the epic Challenge Cup semi final at Odsal in 1957.

As Whitehaven RUFC president, it was the late John Wade, Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, who took young Garratt to the Playground first of all along with Bobby Railton, who also turned professional at the Recreation Ground.

Two great league centres, Tony Paskins at Town and Phil Jackson at Barrow, were among Bill’s favourite players, and he also got on well with the other Haven over the way. “A lot of our good players turned professional for Whitehaven, like Ralph Calvin, Bobby Nicholson, Bobby Blackwood and Bill Ennis, to name but a few.”

Bobby Nicholson, a rare talent snapped up by Workington Town, dropped a goal in the 1969 Cup final and Ian Watson kicked a penalty in addition to the 40-yard Anderson try. “Young Bobby used to have his initials, J.K.R., above his peg in our dressing room,” said W.G.

Bobby might have reached greater heights than he did at Derwent Park, but Anderson reckons he was played in the wrong position at scrum half rather than stand off.

A flyer called McCarten, whose brother played for Town, kept Bill Anderson out of the Cumberland and Westmorland county championship team but the Whitehaven wingman did play for the county against Edinburgh District and also had representative games for the county president’s XV.

“I remember playing at Aspatria in one of them and when I came off a guy called Southward said ‘well played’, so that was a compliment coming from Ike.”

As well as being an all-round cricketer with Whitehaven, W.G. Anderson did the lot for rugby at The Playground — groundsman, bar secretary and club secretary. In 1988-89 he had the honour of being county president and was later accorded a Northern Sports Council award for his services to sport. More recently, Bill and Jackie Moffat of Moresby were made Cumbria RU life members. At county level he’s is still very much involved as a senior and colts selector as well as being fixture bureau secretary.

On a more down to earth level W.G. recalls the days before Whitehaven RUFC had a clubhouse.

“We used to meet in the Golden Lion and change at the swimming baths. It meant having to walk through the town, many a time with mud up to your eyeballs, so you can imagine some of the comments.”

If there was any “boot money” around for the RU amateurs in those days, well Bill Anderson swears he never saw any of it. “I actually paid to play with weekly subscriptions. The only thing I ever took home was dirty kit for my wife to wash!”

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