FLASHBACK: December 1998

Former Great Britain rugby league forward, Roy Powell died of a suspected heart attack during training with Rochdale Hornets.
Powell, who was 33, played 19 Tests for Britain between 1985 and 1991, and toured Australia and New Zealand with the Lions in 1988.
Originally from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, he played most of his senior career with Leeds. He had joined Rochdale at the end of the ’98 season, after playing 14 first grade matches for Batley, where he was captain of the Trans-Pennine Cup winning side, which was coached by former Test hooker, David Ward.
It was Batley’s first trophy for 74 years, with Oldham on the receiving end of a 28-12 scoreline at Mount Pleasant Stadium, Batley in front of 2,696 fans, who braved incessant rain.  It was the culmination of a one-off competition for Second Division sides, with a 20,000 pound cash prize on offer.
The match nearly ended in tragedy after 20 minutes when Powell swallowed his tongue and was near to losing his life, before medical attention brought him round. The incident followed a scrum, and play had continued before Powell was seen lying flat out. When referee, Steve Nicholson realised the seriousness of the situation, he waved the teams off the field, and it was 15 minutes before play resumed, as Powell was led to the dressing room. Powell had suffered a similar collapse nine years earlier, while playing for Leeds.
Powell was Rochdale’s major signing for the 1999 First Division season, with former Test halfback, Deryck Fox to be coach. (There were 14 clubs in Super League in 1999 and 18 in the First Division).
Other news from the UK in December, 1998:
  • Dublin Blues’ winger, Brian Carney, a former Gaelic football player from County Wicklow, signed for new Super League Club, Gateshead Thunder. Carney, who would go on to play 17 Tests for the Great Britain Lions, was spotted by Gateshead CEO, Shane Richardson. Carney also played four league Tests for Ireland and four union Tests.
  • Featherstone Rovers signed controversial Kiwi forward, Brendan Tuuta from Warrington; Wakefield signed former Caboolture halfback, Glen Tomlinson from Hull; former Brisbane Bronco, Willie Poching (Hunslet) and Queensland State of Origin winger, Adrian Brunker (St George, Sydney). Bradford signed David Boyle from the Gold Coast Chargers; Widnes signed French Test halfback, Fabien Devecchi (Villeneuve-sur-Lot) and Lee Hansen (Keighley).

FOOTNOTE: Playing for the Batley team which beat Oldham in the Trans-Pennines final was Beenleigh (Australia) forward, Grant Miers, whose parents, John and Jan were part of my 1994 Kangaroo Supporters’ tour to the UK.

Photo: Roy Powell

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