THE first season of the Northern Rugby Football Union was described by Warrington secretary, J. E. Warren, as 'the most remarkable in the history of the club.' His comments were made in the club's annual report at the end of the historic 1895/96 campaign.

He said some of the club's members expressed doubt 'over the wisdom of the leap in the dark.' But he felt the opening season results had justified the committee's decision to join the 21 other clubs in the breakaway from the Rugby Football Union.

Mr. Warren, elected president of the NRFU in 1897, continued in his report: "Reforms have been introduced into the game which I feel sure have made it more popular with the spectators.

"Partly through this reason, but mainly through being favoured with an extraordinary mild winter, the money taken at the 'gates' was greater than in any preceding year."

The opening matches were played on Saturday, September 7, 1895 and the results were: Bradford 11 Wakefield Trinity 0, Leigh 3 Leeds 6, Tyldesley 6 Manningham 0, Batley 7 Hull 3, Stockport 0 Brighouse 5, Liversedge 0 Halifax 5, Runcorn 15 Widnes 4, St. Helens 8 Rochdale Hornets 3, Broughton Rangers 0 Wigan 9. Huddersfield and Oldham had no fixture.

Warrington began with a 5-4 win at home to Hunslet. Foden was the try scorer with Burton adding the conversion.

The year ended with Warrington in 13th place in the NRFU.

However, the season did not pass without controversy.

A ceiling of six shillings per day was set on the broken time payments which had forced the rugby divide but the first to challenge the ceiling was Warrington.

The first team decided to strike in October claiming 12/- as their expenses. Warrington's committee ignored the claim and promoted the second team.

Mr. Warren stated in the annual report that the committee's stance had the heartiest support and earned for the club the respect of the other clubs in the union.

Right from the start the new organisation's administrators were alive to the need to make their game even more attractive to the paying customer so that they would be able to recompense their players.

At the end of the first season the competition was so keen, the playing standards so high and the crowds so good that many more clubs rushed to join the pioneers.

At the first annual meeting at the George Hotel in August 1896 it was announced that 59 clubs were in membership.

To boost the game's popularity further, the Northern Union launched the Challenge Cup for all member clubs and the first final was staged at Headingley, Leeds, on May 1, 1897.

A crowd of around 14,000 paid £620 to see the game in which the 'Gallant Youths' of Batley beat St Helens 10-3 in a game played to standard Rugby Union rules.

Then came new rules. Goals, however kicked, were to count as two points and line-outs were abolished to make way for the 'punt out' from touch.

It was in 1898 that the game adopted the policy which made professionalism a fundamental part of the Northern game. A four-point charter agreed that professionalism be adopted, players properly registered, players to have 'legitimate' employment in a full time job and 'severe penalties' imposed for breaches of the charter.

This obviously brought many problems but some of them were humerous. Shady jobs such as billiard marker, bookies runner and pub waiter were definitely taboo!

And it was also in 1898 that Warrington moved to their Wilderspool Stadium home. A 10-year lease was agreed with Greenall Whitley for land on the east side of their existing ground, a pitch previously used by Latchford Rovers Rugby Club.

It was necessary to move because the existing pitch was needed to build houses in Fletcher Street and £251 was spent on removing some of the fencing to establish the boundaries of what virtually became Wilderspool Stadium.