The beginning of Wakefield Trinity’s glory years of the 1960s can be traced to a date in March 1959 with the purchase of a local loose forward, who had been missed by the club many years earlier, Derek Turner.
The man known throughout the rugby league world as ‘Rocky’ for his fearless, tough and no-nonsense approach would lead Trinity to seven trophy wins over the next five years.
Derek Turner hailed from Ossett and played his early rugby league at Cathedral Boys School progressing to Alverthorpe Youth Club, Balne Lane, Ossett and Shaw Cross. Trinity dismissed him as being too small so he signed with Hull Kingston Rovers in 1950, playing 141 games before his transfer to Oldham in 1955 where he played 134 games. By the time of his transfer to Trinity, for a record £8,000 he had represented Yorkshire and Great Britain, won three Lancashire Cups and the 1957 Championship.
He became Trinity’s instant leader and debuted in a 28-16 victory at Batley on 14th March 1959, scoring the first of his 45 Trinity tries. Trinity won ten of their last twelve games of the season, winning the Yorkshire League Championship. Within a year, Derek was shaking hands with the Queen as he led Trinity to Challenge Cup victory at Wembley.
He became the first rugby league captain to lead a club to three Wembley final successes after Trinity repeated their Challenge Cup exploits in 1962 and 1963. He also led the club to 1960 and 1961 Yorkshire Cup successes as well another Yorkshire League Championship in 1961-62. Trinity also reached the RL Championship Finals of 1960 and 1962, coming one win away from winning all four cups in 1961-62.
Turner’s representative career was also revived at Trinity and he added thirteen Great Britain appearances to his record finishing his career with twenty-four caps, which also included a 1960 World Cup win and vice-captaincy of the 1962 GB tour to Australia and New Zealand. He became Trinity’s second GB captain when he captained his county in New Zealand in 1962. He also gained an England cap in 1962 and nine Yorkshire appearances, six whilst at Trinity.
Derek Turner was a powerful, dedicated professional; leading his team from the front and by example, well respected by every player he led and came across. As a loose forward, he was a destroyer more than a creator or tactician. He had an aggressive style and a great quote from John Lindley’s ‘100 Years of Rugby’ noted he ‘did not create openings … he forced them’
We could fill many pages about the exploits of Derek ‘Rocky’ Turner. He is a member of Trinity’s Hall of fame, being inducted in 2014 and moved onto coach Castleford and Leeds after retiring, through injury in 1966. He returned to Trinity in the early 1980s and was coach when the great Wally Lewis donned a Trinity shirt in 1983-84. His name and legacy can still be seen around the city to this day, with his successful removal company, ‘Derek Turner Removals’. When it comes to Trinity legends … this gentleman is up there in the top three.