Dave Grayson 'proud' of new 'unbelievable' chapter for Halifax Panthers in special 150th year

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Dave Grayson had politely asked for a fairytale ending in Halifax Panthers’ 1895 Cup final at Wembley. And while a glorious new chapter will now be written into what is turning out to be a memorable 150th year for the club thanks to the thrilling 12-10 triumph over Batley Bulldogs, the chairman’s dreams were inches away from being dramatically crushed.

“All my dreams are just about to disappear.” We are in the mind of boyhood fan Grayson, as Batley full-back Luke Hooley steps up to take a difficult conversion attempt on the far touchline at Wembley.

Moments earlier, Elliot Kear had just scored one of the greatest tries ever witnessed at the national stadium. The hooter had sounded but the Bulldogs, courageously, played on. 12-6 down. For 30 seconds, they desperately flung the ball across the vast field, left to right, right to left. Kear finally touches down in the corner.

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“That last play was just heartbreaking,” admitted Grayson. “You could see the lads were so deflated behind the posts. For us to lose it in that way would have been awful.”

Brandon Moore celebrates his tryBrandon Moore celebrates his try
Brandon Moore celebrates his try

It was all on Hooley. A successful strike with his right boot would take the enthralling contest to golden point extra time. But as the kick drifted wide of the post, it was heartbreak for Batley. Grayson, and Fax, could finally celebrate a first Wembley triumph since 1987.

He said: “There was silence at our end and then just a cacophony of noise. At that point you just go into a joyful, happy state. Tough on Batley, but we were there to win it and that’s what we did.

“I was expecting it to be close but those last ten minutes were unbelievable. It was just typical Batley. They never give up. What a thriller and what an exciting finish to a game.

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“I have watched rugby for a long time, the ‘Wide to West’ Super League try, St Helens against Bradford many moons ago, was classed as the greatest last-minute dramatic try. I think that surpassed that on Saturday. It was an absolutely superb try.”

Halifax Panthers defeated Batley Bulldogs 12-10 in the 1895 Cup final at WembleyHalifax Panthers defeated Batley Bulldogs 12-10 in the 1895 Cup final at Wembley
Halifax Panthers defeated Batley Bulldogs 12-10 in the 1895 Cup final at Wembley

He added: “I was immensely proud. In a rugby club it is not just about the players and the coach, there is an awful lot of work that goes on by many, many people - staff, volunteers, people who support the club financially. All that was going through my mind as we saw the team going up for the trophy and Brandon (Moore) lifting it.

“For those players it was absolutely phenomenal. You could see the joy on their faces. I was so proud of them. I was also so pleased for Simon (Grix).”

With the club celebrating its special milestone anniversary in 2023, in one of his first interviews since taking over at the club at the end of the 2022 campaign, Grayson had promised to lay the foundations for another 150 years.

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And the chairman saw positive signs at Wembley for a bright future for Fax, especially with the amount of young supporters who made the trip to the historic final.

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Halifax Panthers celebrate after winning the 1895 Cup at Wembley

“I have watched a few of the highlights since the game and there are a lot of camera shots on young, smiling faces and I thought, ‘We’re getting the message through there.’ I hope that it is not just a one-off and those people come again and they bring their children who eventually get a bit older and they start to have their own families and they bring their own children.

“That’s how I did it and I’m sure many supporters we have got at the club went through that process. I think we have started that again. We have touched that point again and we need to capitalise on that now and build on it.”

Build on it, Grayson will, but he admitted he may now have to manage “expectations.”

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“It’s a journey. I want to manage the fans’ expectations. I am not expecting we’re going to be top of Super League next year.

“We are having to do it the hard way but when you do get success, and you have done the hard yards, you do tend to appreciate it a lot more.”

After this glorious recent success, however, there now needs to be an additional, dramatic chapter in the forthcoming book, written by club historian Andrew Hardcastle, to commemorate the 150 years of Halifax RLFC.

“Andrew has done some great work on the book that we will be featuring later in the year but we are going to have to put another chapter in now! That’s a good sign.

“It’s another chapter in the club’s history and we can build on that.”