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Alfred Wood


 

Alfie Woods was born on 27th November 1883 in Wolverhampton and played full-back for Swindon, Newton Abbot, Bristol, Gloucester from 1905-6 to partway through the 1907-8 season, and Cheltenham. He was the son of Thomas Wood, a Railway Engine Driver, and Mary Ann Wood.

He played for Gloucester as their extra half-back against the original All Blacks in 1905, but he was mainly noted as a fullback with a siege-gun kick. He came to the attention of the England selection committee playing for Devon and later Gloucestershire in the County Championship . Wood finally forced his way into the South XV that faced the North in a match played at Hartlepool . He cut an impressive figure in the South's 26-3 victory in what was effectively the final England trial and he was selected to make his international debut against France on New Year's Day, 1908. He played three times for England in the first three games of the 1907-08 Five nations against France , Wales and Ireland . In which he made four conversions. He was dropped for the final game against Scotland and replaced by George Hamilton d’Oyly of United Services. His second game for England was the only international played at Ashton Gate, in a foggy Bristol .

 

Beyond the playing fields he was a publican in his rugby union days, finishing off as landlord at the Prince of Wales in Cheltenham . When he went there in January 1908, the Gloucester club suspected that their great rivals, Cheltenham RFC, had engineered his appointment in order to lure him from the Cherry and Whites.

By the following year, however, he was established in the Manchester area where he later worked for many years as an engineer's fitter for AV Roe (Aircraft) Ltd.

A week after Alf's third (and as it turned out, last) Rugby Union International on 15th February 1908, he attended the last of three Rugby League internationals between the touring New Zealand "All Golds" and England, as a spectator. The international was held at the Athletic Ground Cheltenham and was the deciding game, the first at Headingley being lost 6-14 and the second at Stamford Bridge being won by the tourists 18-6.  (In the event, New Zealand won the match 8-5 to take the first-ever series). Alf Wood was recognised at the match and approached by the Oldham committee; he was signed by the Rugby League side in time for the start of the 1908-09 season. He gained a RL Championship medal for Oldham in 1910, having gained a runners-up medal with the club the season before. He also picked up a Challenge Cup runners-up medal for Oldham in the 1912 Final against Dewsbury where his opposite fullback was John Jackett, who had been his main challenger for the England position in the Union game.

He married Rose Clark in Oldham in 1915.

He won two caps for England and four for Great Britain at Rugby League.

Wood went on to represent Great Britain in four rugby league Tests between 1911 and 1914, landing goals in each game. He toured with the Great Britain side that went to Australia and New Zealand in 1914 and kicked four goals in the famous "Rorke's Drift" Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground that decided the series.  

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Three other former Union internationals - Willie "Avon" Davies and Percy Coldrick ( Wales ) and Dave Holland ( England ) played in that Test. The tourists were reduced to nine men for part of the game, but staved off intense Aussie pressure to win the match 14-6 and so take the series 2-1. Wood finished as the tour's leading scorer, his 97 points comprising 47 goals and a try.

He died on 15th February 1963 in Oldham . Exactly 55 years to the day after his first encounter with Rugby League on the Athletic Ground Cheltenham.

email: patrick.casey@cliftonrfchistory.co.uk

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© Patrick Casey, 2010
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