Stanley Rangers ARLFC
Club Biographies
JOHN LINDLEY (1933-2019)

Wakefield Trinity team

Wakefield Trinity team of the 1950s. John Lindley is front row, 4th from the left. (Photo courtesy of the Rugby League Journal)

Wakefield Trinity training in the 1960s

Wakefield Trinity training. John Lindley is front row, 1st left and Malcolm Sampson is front row, 3rd left. (Photo courtesy of the Rugby League Journal)

John Lindley was born in Stanley in July 1933, and lived there for the first forty years of life. He started playing rugby at St. Austin’s school  and represented Wakefield Schoolboys in the 1940s. He played in the Normanton ARLFC first team when he was only fifteen years old, then moved to play for Stanley Rangers. It was from the Rangers that he signed for Wakefield Trinity, as a seventeen year old, in the summer of 1951.

In 1951 he was a strapping young centre, and he went straight into Trinity’s first team, playing in the first match of the 1951-52 season. This was at Doncaster in ‘The Dons’ inaugural game, after their introduction to the league and they sprung an almighty shock, defeating Trinity 10-3 at their Bentley Road ground. The team that day included Trinity ‘greats’ - Arthur Fletcher, Don Froggett, Don Robinson, Len Marson, Jack Booth and Bill Hudson and John partnered the great Australian, Dennis Boocker on the ‘left flank’. After that surprise result, immediate changes were made and John did not feature again until eight games later, a 20-9 win at Hull. In all he made fifteen appearances that first season, scoring his only try in a home loss to Batley. His centre partners in that first season were Froggett, Eric Varley, Frank Mortimer and Harry Burton. In a programme interview in the mid-1950s, one of his proudest moments, in the centre position, was playing against Wigan’s international centre, Ernie Ashcroft, Trinity defeating Wigan 18-13 in the Challenge Cup in February 1952.

When not in the first team he was a valuable member of the A-team and won a League Championship medal in May 1952 playing alongside other ‘youngsters’, Keith Holliday and Frank Mortimer and led by veterans Charles Chester and Harry Murphy. He played on the wing in the Yorkshire Senior Championship Final against Huddersfield ‘A’, Trinity winning 24-12.

The following season was a disaster for John as an accident at work caused him to have a knee operation and he missed the entire season through injury. When he finished the 1951-52 season he was a twelve and half stone centre but on his return from injury he was seventeen and half stone and his future lay in the forwards. He did get himself fit, again, but started in the A-team again before his first ‘first team’ appearance in the forwards, a 34-6 home win over Salford in October 1953. An injury to prop, Wilf Adams saw John play thirteen successive games at prop, scoring one try at Liverpool City.

The 1954-55 season saw him play sixteen games in the front row before he was conscripted to the army for two years and he only played fifteen games over the next three seasons. He played his fiftieth first team game at Rochdale in September 1955. When John returned to the Trinity first team on a regular basis, they were developing into a formidable side. In September 1958, he partnered Dereck Harrison and John ‘Joby’ Shaw in the front row, Albert Firth and Les Chamberlain were in the second row and Ken Traill was loose forward with young, star backs including Gerry Round, Neil Fox, Fred Smith, Keith Holliday, Harold Poynton and Ken Rollin. As the season progressed, Geoff Oakes, Don Vines and Derek Turner were added to the forwards and Alan Skene and John Etty in the backline. The ‘Glory Team of the 1960s’ was being constructed.

In 1958-59 Trinity had a sizable forward line and John was part of a huge prop forward team which included Harrison, Wilf Adams and Sam Evans. John played twenty four games in 1958-59, scoring one try at Batley. Trinity finished in fifth place in the league table, a home loss to Wigan depriving them of a play off place but they won the Yorkshire League Championship and John had gained his first winners medal.

John played the first three games of the 1958-59 season and shortly after a 7-40 loss at St. Helens, he moved across the Pennines and joined the Saints. He had become a victim of Trinity’s big signing policy and after Jack Wilkinson had joined from Halifax, with Trevor Sampson and Malcolm Sampson also coming through the ranks, John was forced to leave, along with fellow prop forwards Harrison and Evans. He had played 87 first team games since his 1951 debut, scored five tries and he was awarded a Trinity heritage number of 595.

John made his St. Helens debut on 5th September 1959 in a 23-0 home win over Leeds, playing in the second row with team mates such as Tom van Vollenhoven, Jan Prinsloo, Austin Rhodes, Alan Prescott and Dick Huddart. He only made six appearances for the Saints, his last against Halifax with Alex Murphy and Brian Briggs his colleagues. Before 1959 was out, he had moved back to Yorkshire and joined Castleford, debuting in a 16-5 home win over Bramley in January 1960 and playing twelve games before finishing his career at York.

A great family man, John was married to Monica and leaves behind a son, John, daughter, Joanne and granddaughter, Annie. A plasterer all his life, many people had fond memories of his working days and there was never a dull moment working a day with him. He eventually retired from the game at the age twenty eight when his ‘dodgy knees’ eventually gave up. After his Stanley days he lived on Eastmoor for twenty years before retiring to Wrenthorpe where he lived for the last eleven years.

(The two photos of John Lindley in his Wakefield Trinity days were generously provided by Harry Edgar, the editor of the Rugby League Journal - many thanks. Much of the information on John’s playing career was provided by the excellent tribute paid to John by Wakefield Trinity Heritage. Thank you to Wakefield Trinity, Wakefield Trinity Heritage and the Rugby League Journal for all the help.)

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