Former Wakefield Trinity and Great Britain star Poynton dies

Harold Poynton
Harold Poynton

Former Wakefield Trinity and Great Britain star Harold Poynton has died at the age of 82.

Poynton was Trinity’s only Championship winning captain, having led the club to the trophy two years running in 1967 and 1968.

He was one of a few players who spanned the whole decade of the ‘Glory Years’ in the 1960s and gained international and county honours, as well as 11 winner’s medals.

He earned a 10-year testimonial and was one of the first inductees into Trinity’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

A local Lupset boy, he debuted with Trinity in 1958 after a few years in the army and playing local football.

His debut went down in history as the day Trinity defeated the mighty St Helens at Belle Vue and he was immediately labelled as the ‘find of the season’.

He developed a great understanding with half-back partner, Ken Rollin, which led to his first winner’s medal, the Yorkshire League Championship in 1959, followed by another the following season.

It was not long before Keith Holliday was moved to scrum-half and he and Poynton formed a mighty partnership that lasted for the next seven years.

Injuries forced Poynton to miss Wembley in 1960 but he won a third winner’s medal with the 1960-61 Yorkshire Cup, having being instrumental in a 16-10 win over Huddersfield.

The 1961-62 campaign was the greatest season in Trinity’s history and numerous records fell with Poynton picking up another Yorkshire Cup winner’s medal, another Yorkshire League Championship medal and a Challenge Cup success with a 12-6 win over Huddersfield at Wembley.

Trinity’s dream of ‘All Four Cups’ ended in the Odsal mud when Huddersfield won the RL Championship Trophy, 14-5 at Bradford.

It was rather surprising that Poynton only played for Yorkshire once (1960 v Cumberland, at Whitehaven) but this was an era when the selectors changed the team on a regular basis.

His first representative appearance was two days before his county debut when selected for a ‘Rest of the League’ side that took on Great Britain prior to the 1960 World Cup.

His scintillating form at the end of the 1961-62 season saw him selected for the Great Britain Lions tour squad and he travelled to Australia with four of his team-mates.

He returned with the Ashes and three Great Britain caps in his suitcase after making his debut in the Second Test in Brisbane, a 17-10 victory over Australia, which retained the Ashes.

Back on the domestic scene, Harold’s greatest memory was the 1963 Challenge Cup victory when, as underdogs, Trinity beat Wigan 25-10 at Wembley with Poynton walking away with the Lance Todd Trophy, his interception try still talked about at Belle Vue to this day.

The next couple of years were a period of change at Belle Vue, with players retiring and leaving and new youngsters putting on the shirt.

A 1964 Yorkshire Cup and a 1966 Yorkshire League Championship were the only trophies in the Belle Vue trophy cabinet but coach Ken Traill built a whole new team, led by Poynton as captain, and their outstanding league form took them to Championship Trophy glory in both 1967 (21-9 v St Helens after a 7-7 draw) and 1968 (17-10 v Hull KR).

Derek Turner, Jack Wilkinson, Don Vines, Fred Smith, Alan Skene, Keith Holliday and Albert Firth had all moved on from the early ‘Glory Years’ of the 1960s, replaced by Ian Brooke, Bob Haigh, Don Fox, Ray Owen, David Jeanes, Matt McLeod and David Hawley.

Neil Fox, Geoff Oakes, Ken Hirst, Gert Coetzer remained with Poynton from the early 1960s as they embarked on their Championship success.

The 1968 ‘Watersplash’ Final was one of his major disappointments, a “bad day at the office” he called it and a year later he finally walked away from Belle Vue after a knee injury was affecting his form.

As well as his exploits on the field, many young fans still remember, with fondness, his paper shops in Kettlethorpe and Dewsbury Road that he ran with his wife Kath for over 30 years.

Up until last season he was still a regular at Belle Vue and always had time for a chat and his wicked sense of humour gave every fan a smile.

Harold Poynton was a Wakefield Trinity legend, both on and off the field. As well as two Challenge Cup winner’s medals, he represented Yorkshire, Great Britain and featured on a Lions tour and was one of only four Trinity players to win the Lance Todd Trophy.

His career finished with 319 appearances, scoring 62 tries and kicking 16 goals for a total of 218 points.

The club’s thoughts are with Harold’s wife Kath, his son David and his daughter Rachel and extended family, at this sad time.

Lee Robinson - Wakefield Trinity Club Historian.