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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Ready for up front battle royal

PLENTY of new faces on view and perhaps Sunday’s Ike Southward Memorial match at Derwent Park will bring a fresh dynamic for both Haven and Town.

While both teams will be keen to put up a good show, as a portent for a very important promotion chasing season, respective fans (and players) will desperately want the bragging rights of a win.

Besides trying to lay the ghosts of last season’s local derby jousts to rest, Haven’s new head coach Don Gailer gets his first chance to assess his resources in a match environment and weigh up some hot competition for places.

All the new boys will be out to impress and provide nothing less than the usual full-blooded derby. My bet is that there will be a battle royal up front. Town’s signing of ex-Great Britain powerhouse prop Jamie Thackray, coupled with another ex-Super League capture, Millom’s Peter Lupton, stoking the fires.

Can Haven’s ex-Widnes Viking marauders Lee Doran, Richard Varkulis, Lee Houghton and Sam Cunningham extinguish the threat? As Don Gailer rightly says it’s about laying the platform before you can start playing expansive football, so who comes out on top in the forward battle is likely to take the laurels.

Behind the scrum a young lad called Ben Karal-ius (great nephew of the legendary Vince) will be keen to make Haven’s scrum-half shirt his own.

Club chairman Ralph Calvin hopes he can ignite like “Boxer’ Walker – fiery hero of many a derby battle, whether for Town or Haven. So bring it on. Arch rivals for promotion – deadly enough I’ll wager in Sunday’s so-called friendly.

Meanwhile congratulations to David Fatialofa, Leroy Joe and Aaron Lester on their inclusion in Whitehaven’s Hall of Fame. It’s honourable recognition for the long and distinguished service of three hugely popular and much admired Kiwis.

It’s rekindled interest in the Whitehaven Hall of Fame and raised some healthy debate, especially as a few legends from ‘the good old days’ have so far been overlooked – this is just a reminder!

For example I’m thinking of some extraordinary members of the one-and-only Whitehaven side to reach the semi-finals of the RL Challenge Cup in 1957, having achieved the remarkable feat of beating Australia on the Recreation Ground the season before. Only three members from that great squad are in the present Hall of Fame – fullback John McKeown, prop Bill McAlone, and second rower Dick Huddart.

Yet two of the most talented backs to wear the chocolate, blue and gold also made tremendous contributions – Syd Lowdon, skipper against the Aussies, and Billy Garratt, who captained the memorable Challenge Cup side.

Bill Smith was one of the game’s most formidable wingers, a young John Tembey later to become a Test prop at St Helens, played his part at centre in humbling the Kangaroos, Billy Banks and Jackie Reid were fine halfbacks in the same match and at loose forward we had the dynamic Geoff Robinson.

Moving on in time who could ever forget the titantic front-row performance of Les Moore, who led Haven’s pack to a mighty triumph over New Zealand in 1965?

But only one of Whitehaven’s five full Test players has so far failed to make the club Hall of Fame – that’s Vince Gribbin. And don’t forget the dazzling impact of two Kiwi halfback Test stars, Dave Watson and Clayton Friend.

The full line up (with Aaron, Leroy and Fats to be added) is: David Seeds, Tommy Keen, John McKeown, Bill McAlone, Phil Kitchin, Bill Holliday, Arnold Walker, Billy Fisher and Dick Huddart.

Plenty of names spring to mind over the years

There’s also The Immortals – 13 all-time great Whitehaven players chosen to mark the club’s 50th birthday and regarded as probably the best in their respective positions. Naturally enough this caused disagreement even among those who chose them. This is The Immortals: McKeown; Smith, Eppie Gibson, Gribbin, Lowdon; Kitchin, Walker; McAlone, Lester, Tembey, Huddart, Holliday and Gordon Cottier. Reserves: Garratt, Geoff Robinson, Dave Watson and Les Moore.

David Seeds would be a preset day contender. Aaron Lester is already an Immortal as Haven’s best ever hooker.

As for the Hall of Fame, plenty of fat chew over, maybe a bit of catching up to do – and, of course, it doesn’t have to be one name a year – a precedent is set.

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