Haydock made history becoming the furthest an 8th tier team has ever progressed in the famous competition and are at present the only amateur side left.
Haydock, formed in 1979 by the late Eric Smith and Bob Berry, have had previous escapades in the Challenge Cup reaching the third round on both occasions against Hunslet in 2005 and Workington in 1998 where a late match winning try for Haydock was contentiously rule out for a forward pass. Success of late on the field has been shortly after the loss of founder, former player and chairman Eric Smith who sadly passed away in 2016. It would have been very apt had Haydock, under the old format, drawn Wigan in the fourth round, two teams the aforementioned Eric Smith loved.
The current Haydock team, coached by Ex-Saints and Castleford winter Chris Smith have come on leaps and bounds under his stewardship. Last year the team made a clean sweep of the awards with Coach of the Year for Smith, Player of the year for Jordan Gibson and as a team won the Premier Division and the Grand Final with two of the Yickers playing for the North West England Lions, stand off Jordan Gibson and second rower Danny Gee. They recently had St Helens Assistant coach Sean Long take a training session in the hope of helping Haydock produce and upset but the way Saints are playing he may be asking Haydock for assistance, but I digress.
In the first round of the cup Haydock were I fancied against National Conference side swath Brow but Haydock dug in for the victory.
The second round brought pedigree outfit and current National Cup winners Thornhill Trojans attempt to defeat the Yickers but the Yickers were undeterred and a large boisterous crowd saw Haydock dig in again for victory.
The third round saw an away trip to London for the tie against Wests Warriors, who by the way are a superbly run club and have a very good and vocal following, amateur rugby league is well and truly alive and kicking in the capital thanks to the likes of Kim Parkinson and Shun Tamura. The Londoners threw everything at Haydock but Haydock kept their resolve, their terrier like goal line defence kept Wests at bay for a huge amount of sets on Haydocks own line. Their dogged defence and a man of the match display from Dean Dollin was the difference between the two teams.
The fourth round draw pitched Haydock against former Superleague outfit Oldham away and to be played on Saturday 18th March 2017 at Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic with a 1pm kick off. The game will also be streamed on the BBC sport website.
Speaking of the draw former player and Haydock legend John Bradbury said “To beat West Warriors in the Challenge Cup 3rd was historic for the club as it was the first time we have reached the 4th round after twice previously being beaten in the 3rd round, and also the first time an 8th division team have ever qualified for this stage – something that will be forever in the history books. It was also the first time the club had travelled the night before to a game and stayed over in a hotel, had a team breakfast, recorded player interviews for a special DVD the club has made- it was a weekend that will never be forgotten. The support on the day was unbelievable with over 100 supporters making the 400 mile round trip, for which the club thanks every single one. We hope that this Challenge Cup run and the publicity we have been given will be the catalyst for the club to able to secure its own facilities and clubhouse, something that the club and the people of Haydock deserve so much. The 4th round tie v Oldham will be the greatest day in the clubs 38 year history and its going to be a case of the last person out of Haydock switch the lights off as a convoy of coaches head up the M62 This is the clubs own Wembley Final and as a group of players, officials and supporters we are going to soak up and enjoy every moment of the occasion and the lads on the pitch as always will give 100% for the badge as they know no other way of playing.”
On asked how he thinks the game will go Bradbury said “We are the underdogs in this fixture and rightly so, people will be writing us off but does anyone remember what Sheffield Eagles did in 1998? Let’s hope we can do the same”.
Haydock are very much on a high on their cup run and have shown no signs in allowing it to end. The icing on the cake is that the BBC will stream the game between Oldham and Haydock online providing a lot of exposure for the Haydock club and there is certainly a rampant feel good factor in the old mining village in St Helens at the moment. Recent viewing figures show there is a big appetite for amateur rugby league, in my opinion and it may be that amateur rugby league is the purest form. The game is played off the cuff with a strong focus on attack, whereas a game of Superleague, apart from Castleford and Warrington, may be slightly sterile and too robotic or structured. I’m glad the BBC have seen sense and decided to stream this tie as it lets Haydock have their time in the sun, I’d say there’d be a lot of curious people out there wanting to see a giant killing at the Oldham v Haydock game.
So support the game and get yourself down to Bower Fold, Stalybridge on Saturday 18th March for a 1pm kick off and witness history. If you can’t make it then you can watch the game on the BBC sport website.