At about 6.15pm on Sunday evening the words of a little known (outside Hunslet!) Russian sea shanty – “We’ve swept the seas before boys and so we shall again” reverberated from the Western Terrace and Section B of the Main Stand at Headingley Carnegie Stadium north of the river as Hunslet Hawks fans celebrated victory and promotion to the Rugby League Championship.
This unique song dates back to the Crimean War in the mid-19th Century, and has been sung by Hunslet supporters since they first heard it from a British sailor who had served in the Crimea, whilst they were waiting in the Cemetery Tavern (now the Parnaby Tavern on Middleton Road) for their team to return from a Yorkshire Cup victory ….way back in 1892!
Sunday’s magnificent 17-16 extra time “golden point” victory over Oldham heralds the return of Hunslet Hawks to the second tier of rugby league from Championship One, a division mostly made up of newer clubs operating in non-traditional development areas of the game.
The team from south of the river were the dominant force throughout the game but at no point in the game were quite able to break clear of their opponents on the scoreboard. Try scorers for the Hawks were full back Jimmy Watson, stand off Thomas Coyle and winger James Duckworth. Skipper David March chipped in with three goals and the all important drop goal was slotted over the posts in the fifth minute of “golden time” – the 85th minute of the match – by Man of the Match Coyle.
Players and fans alike celebrated victory long and hard after the game. Speaking in the Phoenix Bar at the Hawks’ home, the South Leeds Stadium, head coach Barry Eaton was full of praise for his players and everybody involved with the club:
“The players have worked hard throughout the season and that hard work was rewarded today. It’s also reward for the volunteers and directors who put in thousands of hours of their own time to ensure the club is run professionally.”
One of those volunteers, Margaret Gibbon had extra cause to celebrate on Sunday when she was announced as the Kingstone Press Cider Fan of the Year.
Darren Williams, a lifelong supporter and the Hawks’ Director of Rugby added:
“It’s without doubt one of the proudest days of my life, winning the Grand Final with the club I’ve supported all of my life. We’ve had more than our fair share of injuries throughout the season and lost 2 or 3 in the last few games. However, the strength of the squad and exceptional team spirit has seen us through.”
And Club Chairman Neil Hampshire speaking after the game:
“This promotion can be a real springboard for the club. As well as greater funding from the Rugby Football League there will be some very attractive opposition visiting South Leeds Stadium next year, none more so than the Bradford Bulls. We need all those fans who provided fantastic backing at Headingley to get down and support the club in 2015. At the same time we’re going to be working hard to attract new supporters to the great game of rugby league in South Leeds. Together we can take the club forward and provide a team for the community to be proud of.”
Hunslet Hawks is a club owned by its fans and there’s a real bond between the players and supporters, epitomised by try scorer Jimmy Watson who after the game gave his final shirt to overjoyed young fan Lucy.
Hunslet Hawks massively deserve the plaudits they are now receiving. They are a friendly, professionally run club who go the extra mile to work in the local community. Their victory is therefore one we can all celebrate!
This post was written by Phil Goodfield using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.