Ken Dean played for Halifax Rugby League Club from 1948 to 1960. He formed a pivotal half back partnership with Stan Kielty during of the club’s most successful periods. But although appearing in three championship finals and two Challenge Cup finals for Halifax, he finished on the losing side on each occasion. The closest Ken came to victory was in 1954 when Halifax drew with Warrington 4 – 4 in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, still the only time the Challenge Cup final hasn’t seen a try scored!
The replay was staged at Odsal stadium, Bradford and has entered Rugby League folklore as perhaps the most famous Challenge Cup tie of all. Warrington beat Halifax 8 points to 4. But the game is known more for the stunning attendance, than the quality of the rugby. A record crowd of well over 102,000 spectators turned up, more than any attendance for a Rugby League game at Wembley.
The replay was arranged for the following Wednesday, May 5th, and was to be the first Challenge Cup final tie to be played 'up north' for decades. This attraction proved to be even greater than had been thought as dozens of full buses and trains crammed with supporters crossed the Pennines to attend, while tens of thousands flocked from around West Yorkshire.
Though now officially overtaken by a crowd of 107,000 in Stadium Australia for the 1999 NRL Grand Final, Odsal’s 1954 cup final gate is probably still the World’s largest for a Rugby League match – most people who attended estimate around 120,000 were actually present.
Ken gives a fascinating insight into one of the most famous events in Yorkshire’s rich sporting past. He describes the build up to the match, and the journey he and his team mates made to Odsal, before vividly recalling his astonishment at the sight of such a huge attendance.
Look at the 'Fact Fiction Fact' digital story on My Yorkshire, featuring the C H Wood Photographic Archive images of Odsal Stadium on 5 May 1954.