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Jonty Parkin

Jonty Parkin

Jonty Parkin was born at Sharlston, a mining village between Wakefield and Pontefract that has produced many fine rugby league players, including Neil Fox. Almost certainly his first football was played on a famous pitch there, known as Back o't'Wall; and it is possible that he turned out for a North Featherstone side before signing for Wakefield Trinity as a seventeen-year-old in 1913. He had therefore matured physically but was still relatively inexperienced in first class rugby when the game got going again after the Great War. He soon made up for the time he had lost, and enjoyed an illustrious career. He was the first player ever to go on three tours Down Under, and very few have done that since. With Harold Wagstaff, he is still the only man to have captained two British sides from start to finish of such a tour. No one else has brought the Ashes home twice.

Jonty personified the wiry and wily halfback, mostly working the scrum, and few people wearing number seven (or any other number) have chatted up the referee so profitably. In a famous incident at Headingley in 1924 he obtained a scrum, a try and a winning conversion after claiming a forward pass by the Leeds fullback who, in fact, had simply picked up a dead ball and thrown it to a teammate for a quick dropout from the 25. Such artful dodges didn't endear Parkin to other supporters, but at Belle Vue they thought the world of him. It was one reason why he stayed so long with the club; so long that he went through no fewer than twenty-one partners at standoff half.

And yet it was a strangely barren time for Trinity. Apart from one Yorkshire Cup (in 1924-5 against Batley) they won nothing during the seventeen years Jonty played for them. But on a wider stage he was one of the most successful of all international rugby league footballers. Apart from his feats as captain, which did not end till he was thirty-five, and his unprecedented three tours, he was on the losing side only thrice in seventeen tests, and he scored a hat trick in one of them against New Zealand. Apart from test matches, he played a dozen times for England, and earned seventeen Yorkshire county caps. It's odd how often that figure crops up in Jonty Parkin's career.

He was almost, but not quite, a one-club man. He played 342 games for Wakefield, scored 91 goals, 88 tries, 446 points for them. The relationship ended with a further curiosity. He decided he wanted to leave in 1930, when he was thirty-four years old, and he was put on the transfer list at 100 pounds, which was not exorbitant, given his reputation and his age. For some reason, Hull Kingston Rovers couldn't or wouldn't find the money; so Parkin paid the fee himself to secure his release. The game's bylaws were adjusted shortly afterwards, so that no player could ever do that again.

See also Wakefield Trinity

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