One in a series of articles checking out the careers of Warrington's sporting legends, who take a much deserved place in our Hall of Heroes

Warrington Guardian: Meet Warrington's ultimate World Cup hero

JIM Challinor achieved incredible things in rugby league.

Not only did he win the Championship twice, the Challenge Cup and Lancashire Cup with hometown Warrington, he coached St Helens to Championship, Challenge Cup and Floodlit Trophy glory days, while also steering Barrow to their last Challenge Cup Final appearance.

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If the mark of a true great is transferring skills to international level, then Challinor ticked that box too.

The 1958 tourist Down Under was a World Cup winner with an undefeated Great Britain side in 1960 and went on to guide his country to the ultimate triumph too.

Challinor was coach when GB last won the World Cup in 1972 and was also in charge for the 1974 tour.

Challinor, a builder by trade and sports retailer, is a member of the Warrington Players’ Association Hall of Fame. It is perhaps remiss that he has so far been overlooked for the Rugby Football League version.

Naturally gifted in all sports, Challinor, who was offered a trial at Manchester United, joined The Wire from junior club, Orford, and debuted aged 18 against St Helens in October, 1952, as a wing replacement for unavailable Brian Bevan.

It was the following season that coach Cec Mountford put Challinor, the youngest regular member of the team, as centre to Bevan, in what was the start of a prosperous partnership that reached almost 200 matches.

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They were together on the right flank for:

* the Championship final victories of 1954 against Halifax and 1955 versus Oldham, as well as the loss to Leeds in 1961;

* the 1954 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley and the replay before a world record 102,569 crowd at Odsal where Challinor scored the first try in a narrow victory over Halifax;

* the 1959 Lancashire Cup Final success against St Helens

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Jim Challinor, stood fifth from the left, with his teammates during Warrington Rugby League Club's heyday

During his period of national service, another of his achievements was earning a cap playing for the RAF rugby union team at Twickenham.

He made three Test appearances for Great Britain while with The Wire, including the famous 1958 Test against Australia in Brisbane that the Lions won 25-18.

That success was achieved despite key figures - including Challinor - playing in extreme pain after suffering injuries in the early part of the match.

Challinor had scored the opening try of a Test match that ended with GB having only eight fit men on the field, with another to have carried on for 77 minutes with a broken arm being skipper Alan Prescott.

His other two Test matches came against New Zealand in 1958 and France at Swinton in 1960.

The latter was the Lions’ second victory of that year’s World Cup tournament, playing his part in helping GB finish top of the deciding league table.

He also appeared in a friendly for the World Cup winners in a 33-27 win against The Rest at the end of that 1960 tournament.

By the time Challinor played his last game for The Wire in 1963 he had clocked up 135 tries in 282 appearances.

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He moved, with his young family, that same year to Barrow, where he first cut his coaching cloth.

‘Chall’ was skipper-coach of Barrow’s last appearance in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 1967, when underdogs Featherstone Rovers came out on top 17–12.

Married to Wendy, who they met at Crosfields dance when he was 16, the father of Neil, Yvonne and Nadine had a spell in charge at Liverpool City and opened their shop Challinor Sports on Padgate Lane in 1967 before his successful stint as St Helens boss between 1970 and 1974.

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In his first season at the helm of title-holding Saints, Challinor guided his new team to retaining the Championship.

Appearances were secured in the Lancashire Cup and Floodlit Trophy too, though both ended in defeats.

The following season more success came in the Challenge Cup, with Saints overcoming Leeds 16-13 at Wembley, to add to the club’s first Floodlit Trophy triumph courtesy of an 8-2 win over Rochdale.

Again he steered St Helens to the Championship Final of 1971-72 but missed out on the hat-trick.

He did lead St Helens to a face victory over Australia too, an 11-7 triumph over the tourists at Knowsley Road on November 13, 1973.

At the end of that season he was replaced by Eric Ashton and Challinor took charge at Oldham, his final club position in professional rugby league.

While with the Knowsley Road club though he doubled up as coach of the national team.

And he masterminded a World Cup victory in France in 1972 with a new-look GB side that had been considered underdogs.

GB drew 10-10 in a bad tempered final with Australia at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon.

With 20 minutes of extra-time failing to generate any more scoring, GB became champions against a Kangaroos team coached by Challinor’s former Wire teammate, Harry Bath.

After 20 minutes of extra-time failed to generate any more scoring, GB became champions by virtue of having beaten Australia 27-21 earlier in the tournament.

He remains one of only two men to have played in and coached Great Britain sides that have won the Rugby League World Cup, the other being Eric Ashton.

Challinor was also in charge for the 1974 tour Down Under by Great Britain, for whom, aged 40, he came out of retirement due to an injury crisis on the New Zealand leg.

He scored a try in the 33-2 win over South Island at Greymouth on August 6, 1974.

Challinor picked up an injury that resulted in him having a kidney removed.

Tragically, he died from cancer two years later at the age of 42.

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Tributes were led by David Oxley, then secretary but soon to be chief executive and later president of the Rugby Football League.

"In all he did, as player and coach, Jim set himself and achieved the very highest standards in skill, courage and sportsmanship," he wrote in a letter to Wendy.

"He was held in the greatest esteem wherever rugby league is played and his name will live as long as the game he loved and served so magnificently."

And Arthur Walker, chairman of the Oldham club where Challinor had been coach since August, 1974, said in another letter: "His qualities as a gentleman and a kind and thoughtful man were evident to all who knew him."

A Jim Challinor Memorial game, contested between a Great Britain World Cup team and a Select XIII, was played at Wilderspool on May 18, 1977.

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In his honour, the Jim Challinor Man of the Match Award was given to the outstanding player in the Colts Challenge Cup Final.


From winning the cap at Twickenham, to putting the rugby league World Cup on the line in a table tennis match staged in the bungalow Jim built in Fearnhead – his family share some fond memories

YVONNE Halford was 16 when her father, Jim Challinor, died on December 18, 1976, but she remembers watching him play and coaching.

“If we didn’t go to the games, we didn’t see him at weekends. So we did attend. I used to go everywhere with him and he used to say it’s no place for a girl. I used to go scouting with him too. I’d say can I come, can I come, he’d say no, no…go on then.”

Warrington Guardian: Jim Challinor in his early playing days with Warrington

She told of her dad’s early days as a player with Warrington, positioned as centre to Australian try machine Brian Bevan.

“He was only young when he was in the centre – and Brian Bevan handed dad an A4 sheet of paper on which was written details of when to pass to him and when not to pass to him.

“When they opened the wall of heritage at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium, all the older players were there looking at the pictures.

“And they said to me that they used to give dad a bit of extra wages – because he had to do Brian Bevan’s tackling. ‘We knew if Brian Bevan got the ball, we’d get our winning bonus. So it was worth it,’ they said.”

Wendy Challinor recalls the respect for her husband, both in the game and in the media.

“It was different people at different teams he was in charge of, who all said nice things about him.

“In all the letters and cuttings I have about him there isn’t one person who says a bad word and all say the same sort of thing. He just had a very quiet manner with him. They called him Gentleman Jim.”

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Wendy Challinor in 2013 with some of Jim's rewards for his success in rugby league

Yvonne’s eldest son Nicholas Halford is a rower with the Thames Club in London.

She said: “When he rowed at Henley, he took Aaron (cousin) and Richard (brother) with him. And of course at Henley they wear the old blazers. So Aaron wore the 1960 blazer that my dad had for the World Cup and Richard wore the 1972 World Cup blazer, which was quite nice.”

Another of Yvonne’s sons, Adam, remembers wearing one of his grandad’s old shirts to a Warrington game marking the centenary of Wilderspool Stadium in 1998.

He said: “It was an old players’ shirt day and two of us wore grandad’s old Warrington tops. They smelt and were still dirty from when he last played, they had never been cleaned.”

Yvonne’s sister Nadine remembers her son Saul gracing the same Wilderspool ground as her father.

“Saul played in a rugby league sevens tournament for Lymm High School. They were the only team that were not rugby league players and they won – I was so proud of him.”

Yvonne revealed how Lymm Rugby Club, where Jim was a vice-president, was not the only rugby union connection for him, at a time when governors of the amateur 15-man code issued bans to any players switching to the professional game.

“He got done for playing rugby union with Kersal. A guy who came into the shop (Challinors Sports in Padgate) asked if he fancied a game and he played a few times for them.

“I think on this occasion it was against Aspull, and of course Wiganers there recognised him straight away. The chairman of Kersal said he didn’t know Jim’s background. That would have been around 1967 and I think he was between clubs at the time and just fancied a game.

“He quite liked rugby union and always used to say rugby union was a player’s sport and rugby league was a spectator’s sport in those days.

“He did play rugby union at Twickenham for the Air Force. That was in the days of national service and he was based with the RAF locally at Padgate. The guy in charge of the Padgate camp was a big Warrington fan and I think that’s how he ended up in the Air Force.

“He got a cap for the game at Twickenham, it was a really pretty cap. That would have been in the mid-1950s.”

Nadine remembers wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps by giving rugby league a try.

“I was very much the tomboy when I was young, and I really wanted to go and play rugby where he used to coach in Bank Park,” she said.

“And he said no, rugby’s not for girls. He’ll probably be turning over in his grave knowing that there’s ladies rugby now.”

Yvonne added: “I think if he’d have lived longer than he did, I don’t think he would have carried on with senior rugby because I think he got disillusioned with a lot of the professional players who in his mind weren’t professional.

“They didn’t want to train, he used to have to force them, and used to have to fine them if they didn’t train properly. He was the ultimate professional.

“He started the coaching with the council, around 1975 just before he died, and he’d go on Bank Park and just loved the enthusiasm of the kids. That’s where he would have channelled his energy.”

Yvonne described a game with high stakes played in the table tennis room of their family home in Fearnhead that was built by Jim.

She said: “When we first moved in, we had some Australian Schoolboys stay with us during their tour. It would have been 1972, because we had the Rugby League World Cup at the house.

“We played table tennis for the World Cup. We broke the eagle on it and had to get it welded back on.

“I don’t think it was the first time it had been broken. The following tournament there was a different cup, so I think they’d got fed up of the eagle and designed a new one.

“They kept phoning dad up saying can we have the cup back yet, and he said yes but didn’t tell them it was coming back from the welders.”

And the family revealed an interesting Challinor family history with Warrington Wolves, beyond the Jim link to the club.

Yvonne said: “His uncle Walter was chairman of Warrington Rugby League Club, and that’s who Jim worked for as a bricklayer. They had a family building firm.

“My grandad ran the bars. Uncle Harry and Uncle Percy helped run the turnstiles. That generation of four brothers and a son and a nephew really put a lot into that club.”

Warrington Guardian:

Members of Jim Challinor's family in 2016. From left, back, rugby-playing grandsons Aaron Rasheed, Saul Rasheed, Richard Halford, Adam Halford. Front, daughters Nadine Rasheed, left, and Yvonne Halford, right, with Jim's widow, Wendy

Read about the other HALL OF HEROES members