We have been saddened to learn of the passing of our former first team coach, Ray Batten who has passed away, this week (Wednesday 23rd September) on his 74th birthday.
Ray Batten was a rugby league legend at his one and only club, Leeds, but coached Wakefield Trinity on two separate occasions in the 1980s, taking the club to fourth place in 1981-82, their best position for 14 years and three points (two wins) away from the First Division Championship.
Hailing from York, Ray Batten signed for Leeds in 1963 and developed into a top-class loose forward over the next thirteen years, being part of the great Leeds side of the 1960s and early 1970s. Of the fifteen finals Leeds played in, in this era, Ray played in twelve winning ten, including the Challenge Cup in 1968. There were also another four League Leaders and four Yorkshire League Championship winners’ medals. When he retired in April 1976, he had played 434 times for Leeds, scoring 80 tries, along with county and international honours.
After four years coaching his local amateur side, Heworth, in York, he took up his first professional coaching role, at Belle Vue in August 1980. With players of the calibre of David Topliss, Keith Smith, Brian Juliff, Mike Lampkowski, Alan McCurrie, Bill Ashurst and the Rayne twins, Keith and Kevin it was an exciting time at Trinity. He then brought in Allan Agar, Terry Day, Harold Box and Colin Forsyth and the last piece of his ‘jigsaw’ was moving Lampkowski to loose forward and playing Topliss and Agar at half backs. An early season win at St Helens followed by just two losses in the first twelve league games took them to the top of the First Division, but two Christmas losses stumped their progress. They picked up form, again, in the New Year with just two more losses in the next nine games but losses at home to Hull and a hammering at Leigh stopped all Championship hopes, despite an Easter ‘league double’ over Leeds. The season ended with disappointment with a Premiership loss at home to Castleford. At the seasons end the club sold Topliss, Agar and Diamond, but after his assistant coach, Alan Hardisty, was sacked, Batten resigned and walked away.
A year later, Trinity had been relegated and Ray was brought back for a second coaching stint, bringing Bob Haigh as his assistant. Two thirds of his previous squad had now gone and there were numerous signings in 1981-82 and he gave debuts to fourteen different players, including Nigel Stephenson, Bryan Adams, Paul Coventry and Malcolm Swann. As predicted, Batten promoted Trinity who finished in second place behind Fulham, again, three points and two wins from the Second Division Championship, losing just five games. Finances were now tight and for the second time in two years, Batten resigned after his coaching team was cut.
He spent his remaining years running a hotel in York and watching Leeds from the Headingley North Stand, attending many past players reunions. Batten’s family tree is steeped in rugby league history, with his grandfather being the great Billy Batten from the early years whose impressive career spanned from 1907-27. His uncle was Eric Batten, another league legend with a 22-year career with Wembley wins and international caps. Both Billy (1924-26) and Eric (1933-36 & 1943) have worn the red, white and blue of Trinity.
The Trinity club pass on their condolences to Ray’s family and friends.