BRIAN Johnson's honeymoon period at the helm of Warrington Rugby League Club ended after two years.

No more trophies followed and league form suffered while finance was not available to match the kind of £440,000 transfer fee Wigan paid out to Widnes for Martin Offiah in 1991/92.

Instead, Wire's money was going into their youth policy at Academy level, the new league for 16 to 18-year-olds at professional clubs.

Wire's league form was suffering, attendances were dwindling at Wilderspool and by the end of 1992/93 which saw the arrival of Friday night RL on Sky TV many fans believed it was time for a change of coach.

Club chairman Peter Higham and his board of directors felt otherwise and their audacious signing of rugby superstar Jonathan Davies on a free transfer turned the club around.

Cash-hit Widnes had to off-load the Welsh wizard because of his huge contract which Warrington were to finance through a special company sponsorship.

The town was buzzing with the arrival of Davies, the captain of the Wales RL team which had been reformed in 1991/92.

At the end of centre Davies's first season Warrington had missed out on the championship by the narrowest margin of points difference to Wigan and Bradford Northern, attendances had peaked to a 20-year high and Davies had won the Man of Steel and First Division Player of the Year awards.

Expectation was high for the season after but Johnson and his team could not find the desired consistency. Matchwinner Davies damaged his shoulder in Great Britain's first Test defeat of Australia at Wembley and Warrington were lacking without him.

Wire did manage to put some form together to reach the final of the Regal Trophy at Huddersfield's new 19,000 all-seater McAlpine Stadium but they were blasted off the park 40-10 by the game's dominant force Wigan.

Two months later came the news that was to shock the whole of the RL world.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch announced he was to launch a rebel league in Australia and followed that up with a proposal for a European Super League.

The £77 million offer from News Corporation Ltd later to become £87m was too good for the visionary club chairmen to resist in Britain, as the game was in a state of financial ruin. With acceptance of the money came the formation of a 1996 14-club Super League, mergers of clubs, inclusion of teams from Paris and Toulouse, a switch to summer rugby and the playing of international football only against other Murdoch-allied countries.

One of the planned mergers was Warrington and Widnes to represent Cheshire and it brought an outcry in both towns from ardent followers of the game. The same situation applied with other planned mergers.

On Good Friday 1995, two hours before kick off at Naughton Park for the traditional Widnes and Warrington Bank Holiday game, RL chief executive Maurice Lindsay phoned the ground from France to say that Toulouse had pulled out of Super League and that Widnes had their own place alongside Warrington.

The Rugby League were hit by legal action from Keighley Cougars, the Second Division Champions, who had missed out on a place in Super League and anti-merger campaigns continued in the north of England.

Members of Parliament spoke out against the Murdoch Super League deal in a special House of Commons debate and there was high-profile media coverage of the whole issue.

Club chairmen decided to look again at the structure for Super League and came up with a three-division 12-11-10 format with the Super League comprising the top ten clubs from the 1994/95 season plus London and Paris. That meant that Warrington were in but Widnes were out and the Chemics then launched a High Court battle over their omission.

Ironically, the biggest change to Rugby League in its entire history heralded the start of the game's 1995-96 centenary season, the last campaign to be played in winter.

It was a season cut short to make way for Super League and it carried a one-month break of action to make way for the Centenary World Cup which was staged in Britain.

Wilderspool played hosts to Tonga and New Zealand for a group game but the Australian Rugby League national team went on to clinch success over England at Wembley.

It was a season that never really got going and Warrington had to pay the price for a heavy fixture schedule that saw them play five games in the opening 14 days. Injuries mounted up and Warrington never really fully recovered.

Warrington reached the semi-finals of the Regal Trophy and were paired away to much-improved St. Helens.

That semi-final turned out to be the blackest day in Warrington's history. No-one could possibly have contemplated the 80-0 mauling that was Warrington's heaviest defeat.

Coach Brian Johnson resigned the morning after and his assistant Clive Griffiths was left to pick up the pieces as caretaker coach for the rest of the league season.

Griffiths, the Wales coach, was overlooked for the top job with Wire raising their profile in the media by landing the double act of Alex Murphy as rugby football executive and John Dorahy as coach (rugby football manager).

The new regime led to Academy coach Kevin Tamati and assistant coach Griffiths leaving Wilderspool before the Super League season was due to kick off for Wire at Leeds on March 31.

The 12 teams in the first season of Super League were Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Halifax, Leeds, London Broncos, Paris St. Germain, Sheffield Eagles, Warrington, Wigan, Workington Town.

The rebel Australian Super League did not kick off on time after a battle with the Australian Rugby League ended up in court with Super League being ruled unlawful.