Forgotten film brings Rorke’s Drift Test heroes to life
One hundred years after the most historic Test match in Rugby League history, rare forgotten newsreel footage of the 1914 Great Britain Lions tour has been discovered in the sport’s archive.
The film shows action from a match which took place a few weeks after Great Britain had clinched the unlikeliest of series wins against Australia.
Many of the players shown on the film had been involved in the third Test decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground, when Great Britain defied a series of crippling injuries to defeat Australia 14-6 with just 10 men left on the field.
The match has been immortalised as the ‘Rorke’s Drift Test’ and the rare footage captures action of players operating the play-the-ball rule for the first time.
The discovery was made during the cataloguing of a private collection recently purchased by the Rugby League Cares Heritage Project which also includes memorabilia dating as far back as 1895.
The footage will be shown for the first time at the Great Britain Lions Celebration lunch at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Saturday July 12, an event which will also reflect on the events of the Rorke’s Drift Test which took place almost 100 years to the day in July 1914.
Rugby League Cares General Manager Chris Rostron said: “We are extremely proud of the history of our sport and we want to celebrate it with as many people as possible.
“We were staggered to discover this forgotten footage during the cataloguing process, it’s a historically significant film featuring some of the most important players in the history of British sport.
“Footage like this deserves to be seen and we are delighted to have this opportunity to show the film at the Great Britain Lions Celebration Lunch.
“Our history is very important and Rugby League Cares, along with the RFL, the RFL Benevolent Fund and other organisations, are working hard to preserve and promote the wealth of material we have in our archives.
“Displaying the archives and showing this footage is a fantastic way of involving communities. It will bring people out, the young and the old, people who want to reminisce and others who just have a love for Rugby League.
“It is great to be able to give our supporters the opportunity to see and celebrate Rugby League’s rich history with us and we are excited for people to see what we have found.”
The complete RFL archive will ultimately be moved to a proposed new £1.9 million archive centre at Huddersfield University, where members of the public will be able to see the historical artefacts from 1895 onwards at first hand.
Tickets for the Great Britain Lions Celebration Lunch cost £45 (£40 for RL Cares members) or £400 for a table of 10. To secure your place, please contact Rugby League Cares General Manager Chris Rostron at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07917 282322.