By the start of the 1907/08 season Hunslet had built up a squad that was both feared and respected within the game, a mix of youth, experience, speed, strength and skill. The foundation of the team were the forwards, nicknamed 'the terrible six', supported by a quick back division and linked together by a great half back combination.
The game in this era had little resemblance to the game of today. Numerous scrums were a feature as was kicking, from open play, from a mark, dribbling in a 'kick and rush' tactic and drop goals. The forwards did not usually play in a set position. Two points were awarded for all goals and a try merited three points. The league consisted of 27 teams who each played between 30 and 34 games and because of the unbalanced format the Championship was to be decided by an end of season top four play off. The 12 home games and 12 away that were played against Yorkshire opposition counted for the separate Yorkshire League.
When the season started on September 7th with a comfortable home win against Dewsbury surely nobody could have foreseen the glory that was to follow. Les Hoole's excellent book 'we've swept the seas before boys' charts the season game by game so here are just a few of the highlights.
Yorkshire Cup Final Saturday 21st December 1907
The Parksiders travelled north to Headingley where a crowd of 15,000, giving gate receipts of nearly 400 pounds, were there for the game against an injury hit Halifax Side. Walter Goldthorpe was out of the Hunslet side as was Higson and they were replaced by Charlie Ward and Walter Wray.
An Albert Goldthorpe penalty which opened the scoring and a drop from Eagers just before the break were the only scores in a tight first half. 'Arh Albert' dribbled through to score a good try early in second period but was unable to convert, however he made up for this with a later drop goal. Smith then went over for an unconverted try, Ward scored a drop and towards the end a good move saw Batten score the final try.
Final Score - Hunslet 17 Halifax 0
Tour Match Boxing Day 1907
A crowd of around 20,000 saw the first visit to Parkside of the famous New Zealand All Blacks. This match featured three of the greatest players of the time. The famous Australian Dally Messenger was guesting for the visitors who also had Lance Todd in their ranks. The home side had the best of British, Albert Goldthorpe. It was an exciting affair with plenty of good kicking from Goldthorpe and Messenger. The tourists led 9 - 0 at half time but Albert kicked four goals in the second half to bring the Parksiders back into contention. Messenger kicked a penalty from half way which looked to have won it but the game came to a controversial and dramatic end with a Wilson try levelling the scores, but was he offside? then Albert's conversion hit the upright and bounced out, and the final whistle was blown.
Final Score - Hunslet 11 New Zealand 11
1907 / 1908 League Games
Hunslet started the season very well, with a 23 game unbeaten run, but during the early part of 1908 they went through a rocky patch losing four away games, including one at Merthyr Tydfil, and one at home but by mid February things were again back on track. They had the Yorkshire League trophy in the bag, having won 21 games and lost only 3, before the last game which in which they beat Dewsbury at Crown Flat. By the end of the season they had scored 82 goals, 75 tries (389pts) to 40 goals, 56 tries (248pts) in the league. The Final Positions in that league gave them a nine point margin over second placed Halifax who in turn were four clear of Wakefield Trinity.
Back: Cappleman, Higson, Jukes, Brookes, Wilson, W Wray, Walter Goldthorpe
Front: Smith, Batten, Place, Albert Goldthorpe, Farrar, Eagers
Challenge Cup Final Saturday 25th April 1908
Hunslet arrived at Fartown for the game against Hull having accounted for Leeds, Oldham, Barrow and the Wigan based outfit Broughton Rangers in the earlier rounds. The team fully realised that with the championship play off the following week a historic achievement was possible. They had been fined the substantial sum of 10 pounds for fielding a weakened team which was beaten 36 - 0, by Wigan, in the previous league game at Central Park.
Going into the game Hunslet had the statistical advantage having won 26 of the 40 meetings between the two teams.
Hunslet :- Place. Batten, Walter Goldthorpe, Eagers, Farrar, Albert Goldthorpe, Smith, Brookes, Wilson, Randall, Jukes, Smales & Walsh.
Hull :- Taylor (Capt), Parry, Cotterell, Cook, Rogers, Wallace, Anderson, Holder, Herridge, Owen, Kilburn, Fulton & Carroll.
It was not a great match but this was attributed to the playing conditions, snow had fallen most of the morning and although it had stopped by kick off a further snow storm arrived in time for the second half. In spite of this a crowd of 18,000 saw the game and the gate receipts were over 900 pounds.
Eagers gave Hunslet the lead with a drop goal. An Albert Goldthorpe burst set up Fred Smith who touched down, Albert converted and Hunslet led 7 - 0 at half time.
In the second half, following a 'mark' by Smith, Albert kicked his second goal to increase the lead. Farrar scored the second Hunslet try following a crossfield kick by Eagers, 'Arh Albert' converted to take the lead to 14 points and that's how it ended.
Final Score - Hunslet 14 Hull 0
League Championship Final Saturday 2nd May 1908
Hunslet had one change from the Challange Cup Final team the previous week with Charlie Ward coming in for Farrar who was ill. 14,000 spectators watched an exciting, although not open, game. Albert Goldthorpe scored all the Parksiders points with a try and two goals but it ended at 7 - 7. The replay followed the following week.
League Championship Final Replay Saturday 9th May 1908
On another beautiful warm and sunny day another crowd of around 14,000 each paid one shilling, this time at Belle Vue, Wakefield. They saw a Hunslet side showing two changes, Farrar returning and Smales replacing Brookes up front.
Hunslet :- Place, Batten, Walter Goldthorpe, Eagers, Farrar, Albert Goldthorpe, Smith, Higson, Wilson, Randall, Jukes, Smales & Walsh.
Oldham :- Thomas, Tyson, Dixon, Llewellyn, Oldershaw, White, Beynon, Smith, ferguson, Longworth, Wright, Wilkinson & Avery.
Referee Mr E Tonge (Swinton), Touch Judges H Whiteley (Wakefield) & H Edmondson (Bradford).
Albert Goldthorpe gave Hunslet the lead with a long range penalty and later in the half he doubled the lead. Just before the break Walter Goldthorpe scored an opportunist try next to the posts and his brother, showing that he was human after all, missed the conversion and so the half time score was 7 - 0.
Oldham, having missed 6 kicks in the first half, opened the second half scoring with a penalty to give them some hope. Hunslet however were able to withstand a period of pressure and they scored next with a drop goal from Place. They were never in any danger after that and the win was sealed in the final minutes when Walter Goldthorpe went in for his second following a good move involving Batten, Eagers and Smith.
Final Score - Hunslet 12 Oldham 2
After this famous victory the team returned by train to Leeds where a great reception awaited them. They were driven, in a four in hand carriage, through the city. A brass band preceeded them and a huge crowd followed on route back to Parkside.
In the modern day it is hard to understand the magnitude of the achievements. It was a terrific feat in winning all four cups but in addition to that the difficulty of playing with a heavy leather ball, often waterlogged, travelling to games by train, horse drawn vehicle or on foot and the general austere conditions that prevailed in Edwardian working class Britain. It was a tribute to the players, officials and the local community who turned out to support their hero's.
Along with unidentified officials the players are:-
Back: J T Wray, Walter Goldthorpe, Smales, Hannah (trainer), Cappleman, Randall, Jukes.
Middle: W Wray, C Ward, W Ward, Albert Goldthorpe, Batten, Place, Brookes, Wilson.
Front: Hoyle, Whittaker, Smith, Eagers.
The committee in 1908 with captain Albert Goldthorpe.