IT was 50 years ago that Warrington Wolves won the Captain Morgan Trophy. Do you remember this? What was it all about? Here, Stanski tells us all about it…

A MORE dysfunctional cup competition you could not imagine!

First off, qualification.

Only 16 out of the 30 league teams took part in the competition.

To qualify a team had to have won its first-round Lancashire/Yorkshire cup tie earlier that season!

That made eight from Yorkshire, and seven from Lancashire - plus Widnes, who were the best ‘losers’.

This meant that St Helens, who finished second in the league, and Dewsbury (sixth), along with four other Division One sides failed to even qualify.

The first round of this competition was then regionalised, and played whenever it could be played with some being midweek games.

The incentive was the sponsorship at the time.

Warrington Guardian: The Captain Morgan TrophyThe Captain Morgan Trophy (Image: Contributed)

Warrington Wolves’ progress in the 1973/74 Captain Morgan Trophy:

First Round:

Wednesday, October 31, 1973

Wigan 4 Warrington 12

Goals: Whitehead (3)

Drop goals: Whitehead (2), Murphy

An attractive tie provided the biggest attendance of the competition, of over 8,500, but the scoring was only goals and drop goals.

Second Round:

Sunday, November 18, 1973

Warrington 15 Castleford 7

Tries: Conroy, Brady, Cunliffe

Goals: Whitehead (3)

An entertaining match which saw Alex Murphy having to leave the field with a pulled stomach muscle, which had troubled him over the past month. It was a tough fight to pull out all the stops against determined, skilful opposition.

Warrington Guardian: Brian Brady, a try scorer in the second round of the Captain Morgan Trophy for WarringtonBrian Brady, a try scorer in the second round of the Captain Morgan Trophy for Warrington (Image: Contributed)


Saturday, December 8, 1973

Leeds 13 Warrington 20

Tries: Ashcroft, Gordon

Goals: Whitehead (4)

Drop goals: Whitehead, Ashcroft, Murphy

Drama before the game, as The Wire lost their way to the Headingley ground through taking a short cut which avoided the city centre.

After being put on the right direction, and wandering around the suburbs, they hastily tumbled out of their coach.

Petrol rationing imposed at the time affected the amount of Wire supporters following to the match.

Ian Mather, a Warrington born back-row forward, and Dave Wright, Queensland player of the year, second-row forward, made their debuts in a match which was shown on BBC Grandstand (3.15-4pm).

Warrington Guardian: Dave WrightDave Wright (Image: Newsquest)

What a difference a two-week rest and three tough training sessions made!

Inflicting Leeds’ first home defeat of the season, the Wire win was tainted by losing their captain Alex Murphy to a very bad jaw injury.

Leeds’ Great Britain centre Syd Hynes fluffed a simple task of touching down, by choosing to do a spectacular dive, and bounced the ball!


Saturday, January 26, 1974, kick off 2.30pm

Warrington 4 Featherstone Rovers 0

Goals: Whitehead (2)

Warrington Guardian:

Warrington (ninth in the league at the time) met Featherstone Rovers (seventh).

Tickets for the game at The Willows, Salford, cost: Seats £1, 75p (main stand) and 50p (behind the sticks). Ground admission at the turnstiles was 40p.

Played in the depths of winter on a damp windy day within the three-day working week, which for the Warrington area was Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and shown live on Grandstand TV (between 3pm-4pm), the match was never going to attract a big crowd.

The 5,259 hardy souls watched a hard battle between two magnificent defences.

Two 45-yard penalty goals by full-back Derek Whitehead in the third and tenth minutes proved decisive, even though he went on to miss two easier attempts.

For Featherstone, three missed goals by Harold Box in the opening 20 minutes were even costlier.

The nearest Warrington came to a try was when Alan Whittle went from a scrum halfway inside the Featherstone half, and dummied a pass to John Bevan, before being edged into touch a few feet from the line.

It was never going to be a spectacle but you had to admire the determination with which both sides fought in keeping their try line intact, especially by Warrington in the last five minutes.

First, Mel Mason was grounded just yards from going between the posts, and lost the ball, then Mike Smith was bundled into touch near the right corner, and finally Keith Bridges was held on the line and lost possession in trying to get the ball away.

The trophy and replicas were presented by Mr Lambert, managing director of The House of Seagram UK Ltd.

Derek Whitehead was presented with an 80oz magnum bottle of Captain Morgan Rum as winner of the man-of-the-match award.

Ironically, Whitehead was not a spirit drinker, just a bitter drinker, so with the help of trainer Derek ‘Nobby’ Clarke, who worked for a distillery company, it was changed to bacardi, for which Derek’s wife Ann was eternally grateful!

Warrington Guardian: Derek Whitehead in his playing daysDerek Whitehead in his playing days (Image: Newsquest)

Warrington Guardian: Derek Whitehead in 2013 at the unveiling of the heritage wall in the South Stand of The Halliwell Jones StadiumDerek Whitehead in 2013 at the unveiling of the heritage wall in the South Stand of The Halliwell Jones Stadium (Image: Newsquest)

The players were rewarded with the biggest ever winning bonus offered by the club, helped of course by the £3,000 cheque from the Captain Morgan Rum sponsors.

Warrington: Derek Whitehead; Mike Philbin, Derek Noonan, Frank Reynolds, John Bevan; Alan Whittle, Parry Gordon; Dave Chisnall, Kevin Ashcroft, Brian Brady, Bobby Wanbon, Dave Wright, Ian Mather. Subs: Joe Price for Mather (39mins), Billy Pickup for Reynolds (80mins).

Featherstone Rovers: Harold Box; Paul Coventry, Mike Smith, Dave Hartley, Graham Bray; Mel Mason, Colin Wood; Les Tonks, Keith Bridges, Billy Harris, Mick Gibbins, Alan Rhodes, Keith Bell. Subs: Charlie Stone for Gibbins (59 mins).

Referee: Fred Lindop (Wakefield)

Footage of The Wire parading the Captain Morgan Trophy at Wilderspool a few days after winning the final. Credit: Cecil/Mike Waller

In May of that year it was announced that the competition would be scrapped after its one and only season, leaving Warrington to be its only winners.

But that’s not the end of the story!

Years later the distinctive trophy went missing. Had it disappeared in the main stand fire of 1982, or what? It has never resurfaced.

> READ: Appeal to locate the missing Captain Morgan Trophy, three years ago

So just as Captain Morgan was a famous pirate, there may be some hidden treasure out there!