Milestone anniversary for the most famous of all cup finals

Water final: The playing conditions helped make it the most memorable Challenge Cup final.
Water final: The playing conditions helped make it the most memorable Challenge Cup final.

Friday marked the 50th anniversary for the most famous Challenge Cup final match ever played - the 1968 ‘Watersplash Final’, so-called because of the atrocious conditions in which the match was played.

Wakefield Trinity narrowly lost the match 11-10 to Leeds, but that hardly begins to tell the whole story.

Trinity legend Ian Brook with his 63 Wembley shirt.

Trinity legend Ian Brook with his 63 Wembley shirt.

“It just had everything,” says Ian Brooke, who played right-centre that game and still lives in Durkar.

“It’s up there with my biggest memories because of the game and the conditions.

“We’d never played in conditions like that before, or again. It wouldn’t have been played today, but when you have over 80,000 already in the stands, what could you do? I think they thought it couldn’t be called off.”

Heavy rain before the game turned the pitch into a lake, reducing the game into a farce, with players unable to stay on their feet.

Waterplash players' reunion at Headingley (l-r) Geoff Oakes, Neil Fox MBE, Ken Batty, David Jeanes, Ian Brooke and Bob Haigh.

Waterplash players' reunion at Headingley (l-r) Geoff Oakes, Neil Fox MBE, Ken Batty, David Jeanes, Ian Brooke and Bob Haigh.

It led to one of the most dramatic finales ever witnessed, when Trinity’s Don Fox, who already been named the man of the match, sent his last-gasp conversion wide from in front of the posts.

Had he scored, the trophy would have been Wakefield’s.

But for Ian, the missed kick was just a small part of the day.

Leeds had also been awarded a controversial obstruction try to help put them in a winning position.

Ian, 75, said: “I thought we were the better side on the day, but we won and lost as a team, everybody was with Don.”

Ian recalls the reception the players received on their return from London.

“After we got off the train at Westgate we went up Wood Street to the town hall and it was jam packed.

“The crowds were shouting for Don and he came out onto the balcony and they cheered him. The Wakefield fans have always been great.

“For those who recognise me, I still get asked about it. I’ve always had fond memories.”

Players from the final, both Wakefield and Leeds, met at Headingley on Monday evening to mark the anniversary.

Meanwhile, a special documentary on the famous match will be screened on BBC1 this Saturday, May 12.

Presented by Dave Woods, it starts at 1.15pm and looks at the match, interviews with surviving players, including Don Fox’s brother Neil Fox and Ian Brooke.