Widnes RLFC

Jimmy HoeyJimmy Hoey

Perhaps the most famous match ever won by the Widnes Rugby League club was when twelve local lads and a South African forward confounded all the prophets and experts, and gained the town its first Challenge Cup, in the final of 1930, at Wembley stadium. that victory, by 10-3, over a St. Helens team which was packed with much more famous names, was a landmark in the club's history, and it is only right that three of the players on that historic occassion should have been elected to places in the Hall of Fame. One of them was Jimmy Hoey.

Jimmy Hoey started his rugby career as a centre, but was converted into a strong and fast second-row. He had the knack of reading the direction of play, so that he was always on hand to take the final pass to score tries. He was also renowned for making others with the outrageous dummies he used to sell to the opposition.

Stories surrounding Hoey are abound. Some fact, some myth. Jimmy's favourite was factual. In the 1927/28 season he was playing at Leeds against the splendid side that included Thompson, Brough, and O'Rourke. With minutes to go, Leeds were leading 9-7, and it looked hopeless for Widnes when Thompson belted a long kick downfield to the Chemic's line. Ratcliffe fielded it, and gave it to Hoey on the touchline. Off Jimmy went on his own. On the half way line he sold a prodigious dummy to beat a cover tackler. On the Leeds "25" another huge inside dummy, once again taken by a Leeds defender. As he went for the corner three Leeds defenders, Jim Brough among them, had him penned in.

Watching the proceedings on the touchline was a huge police constable, at least 17 stone in weight, wearing a regulation mackintosh in white. As the three defenders closed in on Hoey, he sold his last ridiculous dummy, and the three Leeds tacklers buried the large policeman. Hoey touched down for the winning try.

Jimmy was a character, on and off the field, and another well remembered Widnesian, Nehemiah Harper of musical fame, always maintained that Jimmy could have made a successful career for himself as a solo artist in the music halls. With a joke or a conjuring trick, Jimmy could relieve the changing room tension before the most important of Cup ties, and many os us still recall how skilful a Saturday night entertainer he was, even in his old age, in the Albion - and anywhere else he got a chance to perform! But that, of course, is not why he is so well remembered; he has earned his fame on the rugby field, and by a feat which was astounding in its day.

Everybody nowadays is used to high scoring Rugby League matches, but before the changes in the rules which helped to bring this about, a single try or goal could often win a game. That was why in the years between the wars, players like Jim Sullivan of Wigan were so important to their sides. Sullivan was a prodigious goal kicker; he won many a match on hos own, and holds dozens of scoring records. But there was one record that he does not hold - for that belongs to a Widnes man, Jimmy Hoey.

From the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, right up to the 1932/33 season, no Rugby League player had played and scored in every one of his club's matches during a complete season. If this feat was ever to be performed, it was always going to be a regular goalkicker who was in with the best chance. Jimmy was a goalkicker - not in the Sullivan class, admittedly, just a steady and reliable one. He did not even take all of the kicks at goal - some were given to Albert Ratcliffe.

Two seasons after the historic triumph at Wembley, Widnes were not having a great season in the League. They managed to win exactly half of their 38 matches, and finished in twelfth place. But Jimmy Hoey played in all of those games - and the Cup ties - and week after week, his name was on the score-sheet. As the end of the season approached, people began to realise that a unique achievement was within his grasp.

The final game was away, at Barrow, and the whole town waited with baited breath for the result. There was less interest in whether Widnes had won the game than whether they had managed to score a single goal! The first news was bad - the match was lost 19-9, no try had been converted, and no penalty or dropped goals had been kicked. but it did not mater; Jimmy Hoey had scored all 3 tries! Thus he became the holder of the record which was not equalled until 1958/59 (by Langton of Hunslet).

We no longer have Jimmy to crack his jokes or perform his tap-dances, but we do have the memory of how he was always introduced to the audience, and we can still applaud the achievement which almost became part of his name - "Jimmy Hoey - the man who played and scored in every match!"

© This text has been taken from the Widnes R.L.F.C Hall of Fame Brochure which was written by Sam Patmore, Ron Girvin, Stephen Fox, John Potter & Chris Moore.