August 27, 2019

RIP Geoff Wraith

This week we lost another of our legends, when former full back, Geoff Wraith passed away on Sunday evening, 25th August 2019. We has been noted as one of the best uncapped full backs of his era and played over two hundred games for both Trinity and Castleford in a twenty year career.

Wraith hailed from the Leeds district of Belle Isle and joined Trinity in May 1963 from the Hunslet Juniors club. He spent a couple of seasons in the A-team, but made his debut against Castleford, at Belle Vue, on 11th January 1964 after an injury to first choice full back, Gerry Round. He debuted alongside some of the club greats in Ken Rollin, Keith Holliday, Don Vines, Geoff Oakes and Derek Turner in the 9-8 win. Alan Hardisty and Keith Hepworth were the Castleford half backs that day in a game where both hookers (Oakes and Johnny Ward) were sent off. His second appearance came four months later at Swinton and his third a year later against Hunslet.

Fierce competition from full backs Round, Don Metcalfe and Gary Cooper hindered his first team appearances to fifty one in his first five years at Belle Vue but he eventually claimed the number one shirt in the 1969-70 season when Neil Fox took over as coach, and he established himself as first choice for the next four seasons, until Les Sheard was signed. His solid performances at full back also saw him earn representative selections and he played twice for Yorkshire in the 1972-73 season, from the substitutes bench. He was also selected in 1973-74 but despite being selected as substitute in both games, he did not get onto the field. In his eleven years he did not pick up any winners medals. He was in the squad in the 1967 and 1968 Championship successes, and at full back in Trinity’s Players No6 Trophy Final and Yorkshire Cup Final defeats in 1972 and 1973. He did actually wear a Great Britain shirt, but it was only in a World Cup trial game in 1972 so it was a big shock to the club when he opted to leave in the spring of 1974 and departed for Australia.

Wraith spent the next year and a half playing for the Northern Suburbs Devils in the Brisbane Premiership but despite the Devils winning seven Grand Finals in the 1960s, they did not win any in the 1970s, finishing second in the 1975 league table but losing both their play off games. They were captain-coached by Tommy Bishop and Geoff played alongside future Trinity coach, Shane McNally, future TV pundit Daryl ’Big Marn’ Brohman and former test captain, John Sattler

In mid-1975 he was tempted home by Castleford and made his debut in a BBC2 TV Floodlit Trophy game at Leeds, in September, losing out 10-21. He slotted in well to a Castleford side that was on its way up with a backline featuring Joyner, Fenton and Stephens and Tony Fisher, Malcolm Reilly, Sammy Lloyd and Steve ‘Knocker’ in the forwards. After eight games he was selected for Yorkshire again, playing twice and adding another two ‘White Rose’ appearances in 1977 and 1980.

He was always a strong last line of defence with plenty of pace in attack and a year later he tasted his first cup victory on English soil with a Floodlit Trophy and Players No6 Trophy double (1976-77) followed by a Yorkshire Cup winners medal the following season. By the early 1980s his career was winding down, but it did not stop him helping the youngsters in the A-team and he was also made assistant coach at Wheldon Road before, surprisingly, he was tempted back to Belle Vue as head coach for the 1984-85 season.This was a disaster as he only stayed two months and ten games. Things got so bad in the season that at 38 years old he actually played two games, in losses to Whitehaven and Keighley but walked away after those ten games, disillusioned.  He finished with 227 Trinity appearances (46 tries) and 216 Castleford appearances (42 tries) along with his six Yorkshire appearances and was still a well respected gentleman in both camps and will remain so at both Belle Vue and Wheldon Road.