The club motto of “From small acorns the mighty oak tree grows” steadfastly applies to the Skirlaugh club, now in their twenty ninth season. From their very humble beginnings they have now risen to the very pinnacle of the amateur game, however throughout all those years one common denominator as been present -- that of building the club on solid foundations at all times. That policy has proved to reap a rich harvest, in context to be the club are today.
We look back to Boxing Day 1980 to trace the origins of Skirlaugh, which resulted in a friendly game between a group of rugby enthusiasts and the local cricket club in Skirlaugh. That took place at Benningholme Lane in the village, which nestles in the Holderness Plain between Hull and the east coast.. Ironically it was the cricket club that took the spoils that day by 13-6, but to those founder club members, the dream had started. Peter McWatt is now the Chairman, after spending twenty years as a coach with the First Team, and Towle who held the post of Chairman for twenty one years and Treasurer for a number of years is very recently retired.
However the history of the club is defined into two very separate chapters, firstly that of life at Benningholme Lane from 1980 to 1996 as members of the Humberside (now Hull & District) League. Secondly from 1996 when the club re-located to the resplendent Eastside Community Sports Centre ( the former B.P.Club) on the eastern outskirts of Hull to the present day. That move came as a successful application was made to join The National Conference League, and with it a rigorous criteria of playing standards that Benningholme Lane could not accommodate.
Over the years Skirlaugh have produced many players who have gone on to gain international honours, and many who have graced the professional game. The most famous being Steve McNamara the present head coach of England and now applying his trade in Australia as assistant coach with Sydney Roosters, and who also had a glittering playing career with Hull FC who signed him form the Skirlaugh club, Bradford Bulls & Wakefield. The first Skirlaugh player to gain international recognition was Lee Newton who toured South Africa in 1994 with the GB/Under 23 Young Lions. That list now is an ever growing one, that includes Phil Crane who has made a record number of five BARLA National Cup Final appearances, claiming four winners medals in the process, record points scorer Lee Waterman ( Doncaster) and the latest being Jed Carter who will represent the GB/BARLA Under 23 side in their tour to Jamaica in June 2014. Over the years the Skirlaugh ARLFC can boast they have supplied two international captain’s from their ranks with Sean Wildbore who has made a record number of appearances for the club (RFL / GB Community Lions) & Trevor Penrose (BARLA GB Lions), who in their capacity took their sides to Australia, and in the case of the former it resulted in an un-precedented undefeated tour.
1980 TO 1996 - BENNINGHOLME LANE – CHAPTER 2
After that Boxing Day friendly and after all the hard work Skirlaugh joined the Humberside League (now The Hull & District League) in the 1981/82 season as members of Division Four, twice finishing fourth. Due to a re-organisation in the league structures they found themselves in Division Two at the start of the 1983/84 campaign. It is at this point in time Skirlaugh started to progress and take massive strides forward.
An unbeaten fourteen match league programme saw them crowned Division Two “Champions” and the first of what was to become numerous cup successes. That first of many was The Terry Hall Cup as Ship Inn were defeated 40-22.
Another undefeated league season in 1984/85 saw the First Division Championship lifted, and they also made three appearances in the local cup finals. The Terry Hall Cup (57-22 versus Crooked Billet) was retained; The Transport Cup (8-4 versus Jesmond) was added whilst a first showing in the prestigious BOCM Cup Final ended in defeat by the odd point in twenty seven to NEGAS.
Moving up to the elite Premier Division it was a time of consolidation as three successive seventh place finishes ensued, but The Humberside Championship was claimed in the 1988/89 season, just nine short years after the foundation of the Skirlaugh club. However that success was achieved in dramatic fashion, as it was three way tie at the end of the season on twenty two points. In the play off for the title Skirlaugh won 14-10 at NDLB (Hull Dockers) and then 22-16 at Mysons ( East Hull).
Third and fourth place finishes followed in the next two seasons, before another third in 1991/92, a season which put Skirlaugh into the national arena and focus. Skirlaugh reached the final of The BARLA National Cup, only to lose 27-08 to arch local rivals Hull Dockers at Knowsley Road, St.Helens. This was to be the first of a record six appearances in the “Blue Ribband” knock out competition of the then amateur game, as Skirlaugh became known as “The Cup Kings” in the mid nineties and into the Millennium.
1992/93 saw Skirlaugh only muster a fifth place league finish, but improved a year later to third place, but again in 1994/95 the Humberside Championship was brought back to the village as part of a notable double. The club lifted for the very first time The Yorkshire Cup with a thrilling 24-20 victory over holders Heworth at The Ryedale Stadium, York.
Skirlaugh went one better in the following 1995/96 season by claiming an- precedented “Treble” which had never beeN achieved the amateur game, of firstly retaining and lifting their own local league Championship secondly not only retaining their own County Yorkshire Cup, but lifting the BARLA National Cup. The latter came with a thrilling 21-17 victory over Cumbrian “Giants” Ellenborough Rangers to which this day is rated the greatest of all the finals, in which now Skirlaugh “legend” and Chairman of the Youth Section. The Skirlaugh Bulls Richard Gotts was awarded The Tom Keavenghy Man of the Match award. Front row forward Dean Ralph became the BARLA “Player of the Year” on the back of the club’s successes and was a richly deserved award for the powerful international GB/BARLA front row forward .
It was that prowess on the field and continual success that drove Skirlaugh to making a bid to join the National Conference League which is now covered in Chapter 3.
1996 TO THE PRESENT DAY - EASTSIDE COMMUNITY SPORTS CENTRE – CHAPTER 3
Prior to acceptance of entry into Division Two of the National Conference League in the 1996/97 season, the spring and summer of 1996 proved to be an intense time both on and off the field. Huge volumes of work were undertaken at the then B.P.Club at Saltend, now the Eastside Community Sports Centre but the most important step was amalgamating with the defunct Crown Mallet Youth Section, which was the fore runner of our own now highly successful Skirlaugh Bulls Youth Section. That was brought to fruition by the hard work of Kim Baish, Peter Anderson and Kevin Dale, and today is a success story as The Skirlaugh Bulls Youth Section is a very large and vibrant one, producing players so the future of the club is in good hands.
In that inaugural National Conference League season of 1996/97 Skirlaugh finished runners up to Redhill (Castleford) , as record try scorer Shaun Wyvill took The NCL Division Two Player of the Year, pipping fellow nominee Phil Crane. The club went one better in the following season of 1997/98 by lifting the First Division Championship, and becoming the first ever side to gain successive promotions to the Premier Division, as new members to the elite structure.
Skirlaugh’s first two seasons in the Premier Division saw them runners up on both occasions, been narrowly ousted to the silverware by West Hull, but enjoyed the luxury of dominating the BARLA National Cup, with back to back victories in 1999 & 2000. The Copeland Stadium, Whitehaven in 1999 saw Wath Brow Hornets defeated 32-2 in a record winning margin, which was a season present head coach Colin Brown was awarded the National Conference Player of the Year award. A year later in 2000 at The Boulevard in Hull, Skirlaugh overcame local rivals Ideal Isberg 36-30. Brown also on both occasions collected the Tom Keavangh Memorial Man of the Match Sword, in those cup victories.
Season 2000/01 saw a fifth place finish, a season later fourth and again in 2003/04 Skirlaugh were again runners up to Siddal. It was to be a season that ended in controversy as Skirlaugh were ordered to face West Hull on Challenge Cup Final day in a Play Off Final Eliminator, and were unable to raise a side due to the annual pilgrimage to Wembley. That resulted in a £750 fine and a four point deduction for the following season, which had an adverse effect on the club which struggled the following season. It was a campaign that saw a season long fight against relegation, before finishing a respectable tenth, and ending the season with a fifth appearance in the final of the BARLA National Cup., at Blackpool. However Wath Brow Hornets gained revenge for their 1999 defeat when running out 15-8 winners.
The following season (2005/06) Skirlaugh finished fifth in The Premier Division and returned to Blackpool for a record sixth National Cup Final appearance, and lifted the trophy for the fourth time when overcoming Leigh Miners Rangers 23-16. Phil Crane set a new benchmark when making a fifth appearance in the final, and having a record four winners medals to his name.
Despite all their National Cup successes, Skirlaugh’s greatest achievement came in the 2006/07 season, as they finished runners up to Leigh Miners Rangers, who they went on to beat in The NCL Grand Final 8-6 in a classic contest at The Spotland Stadium, Rochdale and become Conference Champions. Thus Skirlaugh became the first side to not finish in pole position and lift the title, the biggest prize in the amateur game. Following that Grand Final success Skirlaugh travelled to France the following September to contest The European Championship against Bias (Villeneuve), which they duly lifted with a 28-18 victory to complete a remarkable “Double”.
The following three seasons of 2007/08, 2008/09 & 2009/10 saw Skirlaugh at the top end of the amateur game finishing third on those occasions in the Premier Division, but having to look in at other’s successes. Trevor Penrose became BARLA Player of the Year, in 2009, whilst in 2010 Skirlaugh participated in The NCL Grand Final Play Off's for the last time when bowing out to fifth placed Leigh Miners Rangers at Eastside.
The following campaign of 2010/11 was the last "Winter Season" as a major ground shift in the amateur game saw the National Conference League adopt a policy to align themselves with the professional counterparts and adapt to playing a "Summer Season" from 2012 playing from March until October. That last winter season saw an erratic showing starting off as early league leaders, and falling into a deep slump, which at the time saw a record defeat by 66-22 at Leigh East before recovering to finish what was a credible eighth, and outside the play off's for the first time since their inception. 2012 saw a truncated programme played in Groups, before the move to the Summer 2012 Season. From that point the fortunes of the club were one long struggle to avoid relegation to Division One, and it actually came to a day shoot out with Leigh East that preserved Skirlaugh's status. Leigh East visited Eastside with the winner condemning the other side to relegation on the last day of the 2012 season. Skirlaugh ran out victors 26-24 with a penalty two minutes from time from centre Jason Bell. Extra spice had been added to the contest as Leigh East failed to turn up seven days earlier for the scheduled vital fixture date, with a huge crowd in place and the team changed and warming up.
2013 was again a season of struggle when the club finished two places above the relegation berths in tenth, and secured their status with a victory at Ince Rose Bridge with three games to spare. That completed a "Double" over the Wigan side as Skirlaugh ran up a record NCL score when winning 82-16.
After years of struggle the inevitable became reality in 2012 as the Skirlaugh club suffered their first ever relegation in their long and proud history of 34 years which began in 1980. After a season of ups and downs it all came down to having to win in Cumbria against Wath Brow Hornets and hoping other results went their way. That certainly did not happen as Skirlaugh succumbed in a record defeat by 70-10, with a thoroughly dismal second half performance after only trailing 14-4 at the break. It was the last ever appearance in a Skirlaugh shirt of inspirational skipper Sean Wildbore who is a true legend of the club. He holds the most appearances for the club, and indeed on many occasions captained his country when representing The RFL Community Lions
So season 2015 saw Skirlaugh starting a new life in Division One, a league they spent a year in, in their rise to prominence in 1997/98 when they lifted the Championship, but the season was to be one of consolidation and to re-group and re-focus and for Head Coach Colin Brown and his staff it was a time to blood young talent from the Skirlaugh Bulls Youth Section and look forward to the future. The club eventually finished eighth after one time making a pitch for the play offs
One goal that Skirlaugh have never achieved is to beat a professional side in the RFL Challenge Cup, having taken Swinton Lions to extra time (2002), narrowly losing at Whitehaven 12-6 |(1997), whilst playing Hunslet Hawks (1996 & 1998), Workington Town (1999 & 2000), York City Knights (2003), Featherstone Rovers (2006), Widnes Vikings (2008)and finally Gloucester All Golds (2012 & 2015).
Skirlaugh Bulls Youth
Skirlaugh Bulls Youth Amateur Rugby League Football Club is the junior section of the highly successful Skirlaugh ARLFC. The Bulls were formed in 1995 from the amalgamation of the former Crown-Malet youth teams into the Skirlaugh Club. This fulfilled the requirements of the National Conference to allow Skirlaugh to play at the highest level.
The Bulls are members of the Hull & District Youth Rugby League and Yorkshire Juniors Leagues operating a range of teams from under 6's through to under 16's.
The under 6,7,8's,9's 10's play Mini while the 11,s play Mod (Modified) Rugby with the season running from approximately March to September, games are played midweek.
Teams from under 12's to under 14,s play a summer season approximately March to October and games are played on Sundays. The under 15 and 16,s team play in the Yorkshire Juniors League with a season running from March until October Fixtures are played on a Sunday around the Yorkshire Region Teams from Under 12 to under 16 are entered into BARLA regional and national cup competitions at their appropriate age group
In 2009 due to high demand the Youth section of Skirlaugh Bulls made the decision to set up the Skirlaugh Shrimps, this is aimed at children from the age of 4/5 and teaches them basic ball handling skills.
The Club achieved Clubmark Status in 2004 after years of hard work and commitment; this is something that only a few other clubs within the Hull & District area have aspired to. Clubmark accreditation is reviewed yearly. In 2007 Skirlaugh Bulls was assessed by an independent company, KKP who were appointed by Sport England and the RFL. Skirlaugh Bulls passed with flying colours.
As a whole, the Club strives to maintain its high standards, making Skirlaugh Bulls one of the most successful teams within the Hull & District area.