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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Station Road, Swinton

I was born in Salford and worked for many years within the City but after a long absence I returned there recently for a brief visit. In reality, I visited Swinton which is a separate location within the City of Salford and is home to a small but busy shopping centre and the administrative offices of Salford council.

Famous Salford resident LS Lowry, who painted famous pictures of "match stalk men and match stalk cats and dogs" was actually a life long resident of Swinton and lived on Station Road nearby.

Swinton, and particularly Station road, are also famous for a Rugby League team who were once one of the biggest names in the game and in 1927/28 were one of only three clubs to win all four cups played for in one season. Their successful team of the 1960's won the Championship twice with stars such as Alan Buckley, John Stopford and Ken Gowers.

Station Road was the venue for numerous international matches between Great Britain and other nations in particular Australia for the Rugby League Ashes. It was once called the "Aussie graveyard" because for many years Australia were unable to win there.

In 1930 at Swinton, in the third and deciding Test with the score standing at a very unusual 0-0 and time running out, Australia's half-back Joe "Chimpy" Busch picked the scored what seemed like a match winning and Ashes winning try. Busch and his team were jubilant but the referee consulted the touch judge and over-turned his original decision.

In 1948, the Second Test match was played at Station Road and before the game, the Australian players paid homage in the corner where "Chimpy" Busch had been denied but they lost the match 17-6 and The Ashes with it. Station Road, once again proved to be the graveyard of the Aussies.

In 1950, Australia won the Ashes for the first time since 1920 when they won a series 2-1 on home soil but Great Britain regained them in 1952 at Station Road.

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In 1963, the Australians finally won at Station Road and became the first Australian team to win an Ashes series way from home. The result was a 50-12 massacre which was a record score at the time. Station Road was no longer an "Aussie graveyard".

In 1992, the famous Swinton club had fallen upon hard times and the then directors decided to sell the ground to a housing company to clear debts. No consultation process was carried out with the supporters, the local council or the Rugby League authorities. It was an act of treachery and betrayal.

The Rugby League team are still called Swinton but have since played their matches at various locations including Bury FC and Sedgeley Park RU and have struggled ever since. They are currently enjoying their best season for many years and stand top of Championship 2. They play their games at The Willows which is the home of fierce rivals Salford but at least it is close to their traditional home. There is talk of them moving to a new purpose built stadium nearby. Let's hope so

Station Road is a now a nondescript housing estate and when I visited I saw no mention made of it's significance in Rugby League history. There was no signpost, no commemorative plaque or even roads named after famous Swinton, Great Britain or Australian players. It really is a great shame.

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