History of Wigan Warriors - Late 20th Century

Late 20th Century

Wigan celebrated its centenary year in November 1972, with a match against Australia at Central Park, on Saturday 17 November, the result finished as an 18–18 draw.

Wigan pulled off a surprise victory 19–9 over Salford in the Lancashire Cup Final played at Wilderspool, Warrington on Saturday 13 October 1973. Cup holders Salford had lost only one match before the final, against the touring Australians.

Ted Toohey became coach of Wigan in May 1974 before being sacked in January 1975, setting the pattern of coaches lasting one or two seasons before being replaced. Joe Coan (who coached St Helens to multiple victories) took control until he resigned in September 1976, the board accepted his decision "with reluctance". Vince Karalius took over but was sacked in September 1979.

Kel Coslett was coach between October 1979 and April 1980. In 1980, Wigan were relegated from the top flight for the first time in the history of the club and Coslett was replaced by George Fairbairn. During the second division season the club recorded a record average attendance for the division of 8,198. Wigan won promotion to the top flight the following season but Fairbairn lasted no longer than May 1981.

Maurice Lindsay came to Wigan in the early 1980s to join directors Jack Robinson, Tom Rathbone and David Bradshaw. Wigan became one of the first teams to go full-time professional in the league which led to an upsurge in the fortunes of the club.

Between February and October 1987 Wigan won a record 29 games in succession: 20 Division One matches, 3 Premiership Trophy matches, 4 Lancashire Cup matches, 1 Charity Shield final, and 1 World Club Challenge final. Wigan defeated the Australian club, Manly-Warringah, 8–2 in front of a crowd of over 38,000 at Central Park for an unofficial World Club Championship. It was the first time a team of Englishmen had beaten a team of Australians at rugby league since 1978. From 1988 to 1995, Wigan won the Challenge Cup eight seasons in a succession; this period was Wigan's most successful period. The club won the Championship seven times, League Cup four times, Premiership Trophy three times, Charity Shield twice and three World Club Championships. Wigan played in a special 2 match challenge series against Bath RFC in 1996, with one game played under league rules, and the other under union rules. Wigan won the league game 82–6 at Maine Road, but lost the return union game 44–19 at Twickenham.

In July 1996 Andy Farrell was named the Wigan club's captain.

In 1997, the club was renamed Wigan Warriors. Wigan's dominance was threatened with the new fully professional league, the introduction of the salary cap and the 20/20 rule. After going out of the Challenge Cup to Salford in 1996 and St Helens in 1997, Wigan returned to Wembley for the final time in 1998. Still undefeated in the league and coach, John Monie never h aving lost a cup tie, meant Wigan were favourites against Sheffield Eagles. But on 2 May 1998 the Eagles caused the biggest upset in the competition's history with a 17–8 win.

Wigan won the Minor Premiership and the first Super League Grand Final in 1998 with a 10–4 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester.

In November 1999, coach Andy Goodway was sacked by chairman Maurice Lindsay after the Warriors' failure to win a trophy for the first time in 15 years. After a buy-out by Dave Whelan, both the Warriors and the town's football team, Wigan Athletic, moved to the JJB Stadium. As part of the rugby league's "on the road" scheme Wigan Warriors met Gateshead Thunder at Tynecastle, Edinburgh. Maurice Lindsay returned as director. Wigan's final game at Central Park was against arch rivals St Helens on Sunday 5 September 1999 . Ellery Hanley returned as St Helens coach but a Jason Robinson try meant the game was won by Wigan 28–20. The first game at the new stadium was a defeat in a Super League play-off match against Castleford Tigers on 19 September 1999.

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Famous quotes containing the word late:

    Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting
    In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag
    Of proud, seamed faces with mercy and murder hinting
    here, there, interrupting, all deep and debonair,
    The pink paint on the innocence of fear;
    Walk in a gingerly manner up the hall.
    Gwendolyn Brooks (b. 1917)