Wakefield legend Ian Brooke has recalled the day 50 years ago when his life changed as he scored a try as Wakefield lifted the Challenge Cup.
Saturday is 50 years to the day since Wakefield last walked the steps at the iconic stadium to hold aloft one of the most recognisable trophies in world sport, defeating Wigan 25-10 in front of over 80,000 supporters.
Brooke arrived at Wembley as a 20-year old alongside some of the sports greats in Derek Turner and Neil Fox and says it is a day that was life changing.
“We went into the game as underdogs really, even though we had world class players like Derek and Neil, Wigan just had a few more with people such as Eric Ashton and Billy Boston.
“I’ll always remember the day. My dad used to bring me to watch Wakefield from the age of about five or six, so it was always my aim to play for Wakefield. Once I’d achieved that I wanted to play at Wembley like any boy would dream of doing.
“Every player has their aims and their goals of where they’d like to be and what they want to achieve and today’s players are no different. You want to get to the pinnacle and to score at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final, well, dreams do come true.”
The modern day Wakefield Trinity head into Friday’s fifth round Tetley’s Challenge Cup tie three wins away from a Wembley appearance and the opportunity to emulate the class of 1963.
Richard Agar’s men dispatched of gutsy Hemel Stags in the fourth round to book their place in the next stage to continue on the road to potential glory. Brooke recalls how his and Wakefield’s fairytale ending almost never was.
“We played a lot of what I suppose would be classed as Championship sides in the rounds before Wembley. We played Liverpool City at Wakefield and they should have beaten us. One of their players broke through towards the end and he had two men in support but instead of passing he tried to go on his own and got tackled, so we ended up winning the game.
“It was something like 14-12 so if he’d have passed the ball they’d have scored and that would have been it for our cup run. It’s moments like that where you look back and think that it was meant to be, and things like that do happen.”
Rugby league then wasn’t the summer sport it is now, and a particularly harsh winter saw January and February fixtures written off and instead of the season finishing with the Challenge Cup final in early May, Trinity had ten further fixtures to fit in after the showpiece final, something they managed in 20 days.
Brooke says the game itself is something of a blur, but the build up is something he remembers vividly.
“We went to the stadium the day before as is the tradition and we trained at Loftus Road, home of QPR football club. We always stayed at the same hotel and on the bus to Wembley we had a bit of a sing-song.
“Our kitman used to get it going and as we were coming down the last stretch towards Wembley, we were all on the bus singing ‘We’ll be there at the end of the road’.
“In the dressing room everyone does their own little thing and then you come to walk down the tunnel. You never can really tell what it’s like out there until you emerge from the tunnel and when you do and you hear the roar, it’s unbelievable. It’s impossible to describe unless you’ve experienced it, it was just a magnificent sound.
“The game was over in what seemed like a flash. We were in the dressing room afterwards and I remember it was the time when they were filming ‘This Sporting Life’. There was one big bath that everyone would go in after the game and Richard Harris jumped in, fully clothed!
“I hung my playing shirt over the chair when we got back to the hotel room in the night and when I opened my eyes the next day, that was the first thing I saw.
“When we came back to Wakefield I was amazed by the people in streets. We went from Westgate station to the Town Hall and there were people lining the streets all the way. It wasn’t until I saw the news reels in the museum recently that I really appreciated how many people were there. It meant so much to the people in the city.”
Wakefield fans have been starved of Challenge Cup success since the 1963 final, the clubs fifth victory in the competition and face a tough trip to Hull FC on Friday night in a bid to come a step closer to Wembley.
With home advantage and a number of star names in their side, the black and whites will arguably go into the game as favourites but as part of the team that upset the odds to lift the cup, Brooke says the Wildcats squad are more than capable of booking a place in the quarter-final.
“Nobody is unbeatable,” said Brooke. “It’s important not to get caught up in the occasion but have a sense of calm and knowing what game you want to play, and I’m sure Richard will have them very well prepared.
“It will be a tough game but it’s one we can win. We’re a bit sick of seeing other teams play at Wembley,” he joked, “so it would be great if we can get there again, especially this year.”
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