We have been saddened to learn of the passing of one of our former first team heroes, David Wakefield who has passed away, three weeks ago (14th September). He was a livewire hooker back in the 1950s and 1960s playing 17 games in his five years at the club
Seventeen games in five years does not sound a great deal, but David Wakefield played in a great era when Trinity won eight trophies and they had a first team brimming with internationals and playing just one game was an achievement for any local junior at this time. He was born on 4th May 1936, in South Street in the city, near to the Kirkgate Station area of the city and arrived at Belle Vue in the summer of 1956 as a twenty-year-old hooker. He had played his junior rugby at Stanley Rangers, a real ‘hotbed’ of junior rugby league and a strong pathway for many Trinity players of the years.
He quickly joined the ‘A’ team squad and debuted at Hull Kingston Rovers ‘A’ in late August. The A-team were the 1956 League Champions, so this was also a great effort forcing his way into this team within a few weeks of signing. This first reserve team season also saw success, winning the League title, again, but losing out in the play-off semi finals and the knockout cup final. He shared the field with future stars Fred Smith, Ken Hirst, Les Chamberlain, Geoff Oakes and David Lamming. He shared the hooking role with good friend, Oakes, as David was often moved to scrum half with Oakes playing at hooker.
His first team debut came just a couple of months after signing, in the tenth game of the season. First team hookers, John ‘Joby’ Shaw and Keith Bridges were injured, and David was given his opportunity in the home game with Leigh on 22nd September 1956 in a side containing internationals Frank Mortimer and Don Froggett along with a young Ken Rollin. Trinity won 37-18 and David made a good account of himself. Bridges came back for two games and David was given his second appearance three weeks later in a 35-9 home win over Batley and a third came at Whitehaven over the Christmas 1956 period.
He was a ‘mainstay’ of the A-team forward line throughout the rest of the 1950s being drafted into the first team when the regular, Shaw, was unavailable and then Oakes gained the first team role in 1958. He played four first team games in 1957-58 and three in 1958-59. Back in this era, players gained a bonus for playing ten first team games but after nine games was reached, in 1958, an amusing story ensued. Trinity refused to pick him for his tenth game and a month went by after he had played well in two games in November 1958, and David was getting rather disgruntled. A plan was hatched with his good friend, who was selected in his hooking position and that player was pulling out just before kick off, the day after the Boxing Day game, and it was agreed that David would be walking past the main entrance at the time of the decision. The conversation went…“I can’t play, today, coach, as I am not feeling 100% after yesterday’
“It is a bit late to make that decision..”
“Well, there’s David Wakefield, there, walking by. He can play hooker.”… and so David Wakefield was selected at hooker for the Halifax game, gaining his ten-game bonus but losing pay after a 9-18 home loss.
It was back to the reserves after this and he did not feature in the first team, again, until March 1960. He played alongside his great friend, Malcolm Sampson who came through the same Stanley nursery. Although not in the team he was in the Wembley and Championship Final squads of 1960, when Trinity won the Challenge Cup, but it was still tough to break into that first team, regularly, with a young Roy Hawksley the next ‘young kid on the block’. After Milan Kosanovic was signed from Featherstone Rovers, David was transferred to Doncaster in August 1961. The last of his 17 first team games came on 15th April 1961 in a 32-9 win at Doncaster, playing so well, that ‘The Dons’ signed him that summer. His one, and only, Trinity try came in his 16th game at Huddersfield the week before his last game.
Doncaster were a low ranked side in 1961-62 but at the age of 25, David found a regular first team role debuting in a 3-26 loss at York on 23rd August 1961. He was back at Belle Vue three weeks later but suffered a 5-55 hammering to his former colleagues. He played 29 games in that first season, scoring two tries and with injuries also played at scrum half and second row. He was part of a rare 10-7 win over Salford which is still talked about in the ‘Dons’ history books, but after two games the following season he disappeared from the ‘Dons scene’ in September 1962 retiring, or possibly returning to the amateur scene, at aged 26.
Away from his rugby league life, he married Dilys and has three children, David, Rebecca and Danny. He worked at British Ropes and then the Manor Colliery finishing his days as school caretaker at Waterton Road School in Wakefield. Nicknamed ‘Scag’ throughout this career, David Wakefield was a true Wakefield Trinity hero giving five-year service to the club. He gained a heritage number of 632 and the club would like to pass on their sincere condolences to his family.