Fifty years on and Brooke still upset at Cup final loss

Watersplash Final.
Watersplash Final.
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“IT always narks me even to this day. Fifty years on I still get that emotion thinking about what happened at Wembley.”

Former Wakefield Trinity centre Ian Brooke is talking about the famous Watersplash final in which he played in 1968.

He is not, though, referring to the dramatic incident that everyone else always recollects.

That, of course, was when, with the last play of the Challenge Cup Final, Trinity’s Don Fox – having already claimed the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match –missed what would have been a match-winning conversion from almost in front of the posts.

Having slightly lost his footing in the atrocious conditions – a huge downpour before and during the game left Wembley looking like a lake – heartbroken Fox slumped to his knees, utterly dejected.

It created one of the most iconic images in the sport’s history as lucky Leeds celebrated a 11-10 win to take the prestigious trophy back to West Yorkshire.

Ian Brooke.

Ian Brooke.

However, ahead of the match’s 50th anniversary tomorrow, Brooke told The Yorkshire Post: “No, that wasn’t it.

“What narked me was that Leeds didn’t score a try that day.

“They had one given by the referee. Leeds were awarded an obstruction try. I don’t think there had ever been one awarded in a Challenge Cup final before then.

“That was the biggest talking point. It was never a try. It shouldn’t have been given.

“They were rare back then but when I watch nowadays and see what is given as obstruction it is just farcical. I just laugh when I see it. It’s beyond me.

“In ‘68, though, that was the big decision, not Don missing that kick.”

Brooke has taken part in a BBC documentary, presented by David Woods, that will be aired on Saturday, recollecting one of the sport’s most famous matches.

Sharlston-born Fox, who died aged 72 in 2008, was forever remembered for that moment but which prompted Eddie Waring’s famous ‘he’s a poor lad’ line during commentary which was broadcast live on the BBC’s Grandstand programme..

The legendary Neil Fox, still the sport’s greatest-ever points scorer and Don’s younger brother, should have been kicking goals that afternoon but the prolific centre missed the match due to injury. Brooke – now 75 – admitted it did affect his former playing colleague in later life.

He said: “It was always inside Don and he was always quiet about it. But what got to him was that it was shown every year. That kick. Every year on telly at Challenge Cup time.

“On and on and on. He really got upset by that and you can imagine you would.

“Neil always said it affected him afterwards but what a fabulous footballer.

“I was just saying the other day how – in this age – he’d be doing 40/20s all the time. He was that good a footballer and an absolutely brilliant reader of the game.

“He’d spot someone resting on a blindside and, when I was playing as his centre, he’d tell me where to run and the ball would be perfect.

“A lot of players now play like zombies but he was off the cuff, too, and always looking to make something happen.”

Brooke – who was in his second spell at Trinity – helped the club win the Championship final the week before those events at Wembley and scored in the 1963 Challenge Cup victory over Wigan.

He recollected what the side said to Fox, who played nearly 400 games for Featherstone before joining Trinity, as they re-entered the dressing rooms.

“We just told Don it could have happened to anyone,” said the former Bradford Northern player, who also represented Great Britain 13 times.

“It was a pressure kick. None of us would have liked to take it. He was a fellow professional and we just gathered around him. That was it. We all got back on the coach to go to our hotel but just took him to the pub over the road.

“We all had a beer and he was feeling a bit down but we just tried to cheer him up and there was plenty of characters in that Trinity team who could help do that.”

Brooke, who appears along with Neil Fox in the programme, maintained it was the right decision for the game to go ahead.

“With that many people in the stadium (87,000), I don’t think they could have called it off,” he explained.

“I thought we were the better side against Leeds on the day, though, and were in their half for most of the game.”

Rugby League’s Legendary Watersplash Final will be shown on BBC1 on Saturday 1.15-2pm.