Record Keepers’ Club update

Hi everyone

As the game celebrates its 125th anniversary week, in circumstances no-one could have predicted, I thought it time to give another update on a few things.  A proper newsletter still remains on the longlist to do, so for now, I’ll continue with the lower budget e-mail format…

Membership numbers, our supporters and our archive

I’ll start with a celebration of our own: we now stand at over 150 members (153 to be exact) after a mini-rush following publication of an article I wrote for the Rugby League Journal.  Harry Edgar at RL Journal, Martin Sadler at League Express, and Phil Caplan at Forty20 have all been supportive of our work, and agreed to run articles when I’ve put them forward, so it feels appropriate to give them a plug and ask members to support those that are helping us.  

In terms of our membership, we now have an international spread, with members in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France & Spain, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how many have jumped on board, and hope people are finding the archive interesting & useful.  John Womersley has continued to do an excellent job supplying scanned copies of the History of RL, including supplementing these with additional info like first names of players, so check these out if you haven’t seen them yet, as they’re a great read.  You can access them, together with other material here.

Status update

The pace of work has now settled at something more sustainable after the initial rush caused by people with time on their hands due to lockdown.  That’s not to say that the progress has failed to be impressive though.  In terms of electronic records we now have these typed up for all but 10 seasons of one club for the winter era, and for the summer era are just a combined 200 seasons short of the full set.  My thanks as ever to those that have provided input here.

Our work on the member clubs has therefore predominantly moved on to the next phases now.  As I’ve explained previously, once we’ve got the electronic records we run a number of checks on them to ensure they are robust (e.g. no duplicated players in line ups, no date errors, all scorers appear in line ups, etc).  This flushes out a number of issues, sometimes typing errors, sometimes more fundamental things requiring investigation back to source evidence.  We now have 14 clubs that have completely cleared these checks for all seasons, 6 of them founder clubs that are still playing, and we have a total of nearly 1,500 seasons loaded out of a total of 3,700.  Work in this area is a priority and will remain so for a while.

Once a club’s records are in the database we generate player charts, and get the relevant statisticians/historians for each club involved in checking them for accuracy, both of the appearance and scoring records, and players names, including linking all relevant seasons for individual players, to give an accurate club career record.  This can take some time, but once we have this completed for enough clubs / players, we can move on to the mammoth task of linking players between clubs.  We still have just the 3 clubs that have had this work completed, but a few more are now getting close to being done.  Once we have enough clubs loaded and validated, it will make sense to make this available to members on-line: essentially this will be a prototype for what will eventually be available to the public, and more will follow on this in future updates.

As the initial collating of data for member clubs draws to a conclusion, we have started to work on gathering this for non-member clubs (amateurs & overseas clubs), and representative sides.  Again, progress here has been impressive.  In my last update I appealed for volunteers to help, and had a great response.  Over 25 members have since provided support, and as it stands we have team line-ups and scorers for nearly half of the approx 2,000 non-member club games, and over a third of the 3,700 rep sides.  I’m confident it won’t be too long until we have the vast majority of this data in, given the rate of progress seen – again, a huge thanks to everyone for their efforts here.

We do though have some matches / teams that we’re missing information for, so I will put an appeal out to anyone that can help, either from their own records, via searching on British Newspaper Archive, or via other sources.  I have pulled together a list of teams here that are needed; if anyone can help by populating the missing information highlighted in orange, it would be very much appreciated (note it’s the information relating to the yellow highlighted team only that’s needed on each line).  Once you have populated information, please drop me a note, so I’m aware / can remove it from the list.

International match status

In the past month or so I have been working with International Rugby League (formerly known as the Rugby League International Federation) on pulling together a comprehensive list of international matches.  Fellow members Tony Collins and Andrew Ferguson have played a pivotal role here too, whilst Mark Kirby has been a great help in making sense of the more contentious games, and ensuring we had a comprehensive list.  

The work to get a full list of recognised internationals is now a good way along, and by the end of the week we will have something that is 95% there.  It’s clear though, and has been explicitly stated, that IRL intend to set the parameters quite wide here to capture as many games as possible.  In discussing with them, on the back of conversations I have had with some members, I have said we are likely to adopt more stringent criteria for what games we classify as Full Internationals.  

The provisional approach I have suggested is that we will adopt a two tiered system, splitting the list that IRL produces into “Full Internationals” & “Internationals”.  Only “Full Internationals” will be counted as first-class games to be included in a player’s career records.  Such an approach allows for consistency with precedents that have been set before: for example, Ray Fletcher is explicit in the 1996 Rothmans that the games in the 1995 Emerging Nations World Cup are not classified as first-class games, and therefore don’t count in official player records, as the tournament was essentially amateur in nature (teams were prevented from fielding more than 3 professionally signed players).  IRL has stated these games will be on their list, so either we change the status retrospectively, which I’m not a fan of, or we adopt some classification.  Clearly we don’t want to create confusion here, so a simple approach is required.  After initial consultation, my proposal is therefore that Full Internationals must include a Full Member, or be part of a tournament involving a Full Member; this excludes games between observer / affiliate only nations, which seems in keeping with the principles that have been adopted so far.

I’d appreciate members’ thoughts and input into the above proposal, and am happy to discuss in whatever level of detail people want here!  This is a complicated area, and one that hasn’t really been strongly defined before, given the international games’ expansion happened after the original RKC wound up.  In due course I will publish more detail here, both in terms of any classification of the IRL list, but also the rationale / criteria for this classification.  Clearly though, it would be good to have the bulk of the discussion upfront, and be a good way towards a final decision before this point.

As they say, “that’s all folks” – at least for now.  Enjoy the (virtual) anniversary celebrations, and the fact that live games are back, and I’ll be in touch again soon.

All the best


Author: Neil Ormston