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Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:30 pm
Posted by rubber duckie on Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:30 pm
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Don't remember Murphy too well so in my life there's only been 2 players that I was in awe. Phil Blake and Jonathan Davies.
Don't get me weong I had favourites like John Woods and Langar and even Sandow had a period he was unplayable....
I'm hoping Blake Austin is the 3rd coming. He looks to have some Phil Blake other than name and some Davis in him too.
I'm really looking forward to this season.
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Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:33 pm
Posted by sally cinnamon on Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:33 pm
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Yes fair enough duckie, 93/94 was a special season. I was thinking you meant 88/89 because the thread was titled "30 years ago". I also agree with lefty about those being the times when it was a joy to go to watch Wire.

Actually for me, 93/94 was special as well because it was around then that I think rugby league in general was the strongest it has been in my lifetime. There were so many great players around, in both hemispheres. We had Davies, Offiah, Hanley, Edwards, Schofield - all players the like of which the British game has never produced since. And while the Aussies are always strong, I really liked the Aussies of that era, Mal Meninga's Kangaroos, with Daley, Stuart, Langer, Ettingshausen, Renouf, Mullins, Steve Walters, Sironen, and a young Fittler. The 1994 Ashes the following season was my favourite international series of all time, with my favourite ever single Test being the one where Edwards got sent off and GB won with 12 men, Davies outpacing Mullins for the corner. Probably my crowning memory of Davies' time at Wire, even if it was in a GB shirt.

The 93/94 season for me had a feeling of Leicester City a few years back in terms of unreality, although we never got to the point Leicester did when they beat Man City and thought - we really are going to do this now. Maybe others here felt different, but I never thought during 93/94 that we were going to win the title. I was just enjoying the concept of us being up there, contending. When we played the other two teams that we finished level on points with - Wigan and Bradford Northern - other than the Cullen's knees game we were beaten easily, there was definitely a gulf in quality between us and them.

The defining memories from that season for me actually came shortly after the Cullen's knees game. The high point was Halifax away in the Challenge Cup, where we were losing and Davies scored two unbelievable tries in quick succession to turn the game. The atmosphere at Thrum Hall was incredible and even though I didn't think we had enough to win the league, I remember thinking we could make Wembley again. The low point came a few weeks later, when we were bundled out of the Cup easily by Leeds and then went back to Thrum Hall in the league and got soundly beaten there, it was a real contrast and a real "end of the dream" moment, consolidated by the fact Bradford Northern beat us easily in the next game too. I had given up hope of the title then but we actually had a strong run to the end of the season which is why it ended up as close as it did.

The most enjoyable thing about that year apart from Davies was that it felt like we had a team of players who were likeable to watch, they gave their all for the shirt, even though too many of them were limited in talent for us to be a great team. Guys like Allan Bateman, Greg Mackey, Kevin Ellis and Paul Cullen had that spirit that you want Wire players to have, and Bateman was a superb player. Overall I didn't think our pack was really championship class. Guys like Mike Gregory and Bob Jackson were coming to the end of their careers. Kelly Shelford was a good ball player though, they don't make loose forwards like him any more.

Davies really took that team from being a mid-table side to the verge of being champions, and in rugby league it's rare that you get one player who is so influential as to be able to make that sort of difference to a side. The only other one I can think of like that was Andrew Johns at Newcastle. I remember someone saying at the time, that Davies was such a good kicker that teams would find a way to carry him even if he didn't do much else, because of the points he was worth with his boot (plus drop goals) and his coolness under pressure. But he was the most explosive runner I've ever seen in a Wire jersey, and he was also a leader too. Just a total, complete player. It was a source of great pride just having him in a Wire shirt and I enjoyed the two years he was here massively even though we didn't win anything. I remember hearing about his signing on the radio, and straight after the news the DJ played the song "Dreams" by Gabrielle and if I ever hear that song today it takes me right back to the same feelings of excitement about knowing Davies was going to become a Wire.

One other real memory of that season, was a 17 year old Iestyn Harris coming in to the team. Perhaps it was more the following year that he really started to be noticed, but I've never been as excited about a Wire Academy player as I was with a young Harris. People were calling this teenage kid the heir to Jonathan Davies, at a time Davies was the stand out player in the game, and it didn't look like an exaggerated comparison, he was that good. He didn't have Davies foot speed but you could see straight away that he was a talent in a different league to his peers.

The biggest feeling for me watching the Wire at that time was one of hope for the future, not necessarily that I thought we would win the league in 93/94 as I always felt we were a bit short. It was hope because we had brought in a player in Davies who you knew could always give you some magic, and hope because although Davies was in his early 30s, we had Harris at 17/18 and his potential seemed limitless...looking back now I think Harris underachieved compared to what I thought he'd do, he peaked quite early, although still had a fine career.

After this big high the comedown in the years 1995-98 was awful and it was a real life lesson for me about not getting too far ahead with your dreams when you are a Wire fan. We could have gone on to great things if we had supplemented that team with the right signings, like Bradford and St Helens did, securing themselves as the dominant forces in the early period of summer rugby. We on the other hand, lost Bateman, Davies and Mackey in quick succession, Harris got disillusioned and wanted out, and the long decline had set in. After being burned by that I was already cynical enough not to get too excited by the emergence of Sculthorpe and Henare, I was sure it wouldn't last...and it didn't.
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Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:54 am
Posted by Wires71 on Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:54 am
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Great post. Maybe 2011 comes close to that season for enjoyment, but nothing compares to the late 80's/90's for atmosphere at the Zoo. It may be a coincidence that this period coincided with me being a callow youth, but I remember magic times and would live it again in a heartbeat.

I guess the ones that don't "get it" about that period didn't go to the games back then.
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Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:48 pm
Posted by pk on Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:48 pm
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Still interested to hear when this golden period was...
I've seen them bomb a quarter final, bottle a semi final, finish as league leaders, but I've still, never, seen the Wire win the league
Doom and gloom, doom and gloom
Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:52 pm
Posted by rubber duckie on Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:52 pm
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We've done that.
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Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:53 pm
Posted by pk on Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:53 pm
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was that it?
I've seen them bomb a quarter final, bottle a semi final, finish as league leaders, but I've still, never, seen the Wire win the league
Doom and gloom, doom and gloom
Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:58 pm
Posted by rubber duckie on Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:58 pm
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Have a scroll back. It's all opinion so you make up your own mind.
once a wire always a wire
Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:01 pm
Posted by Captain Hook on Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:01 pm
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pk wrote:
was that it?

Based on your signature I feel safe in saying “you wouldn’t understand”.
Just my opinions unless it's a FACT, in which case it's a fact.
Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:05 pm
Posted by rubber duckie on Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:05 pm
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Captain Hook wrote:
Based on your signature I feel safe in saying “you wouldn’t understand”.

All indication is he's trolling but I wouldn't bite.
once a wire always a wire
Re: Jonathan Davies: 30 years ago
Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:17 pm
Posted by sally cinnamon on Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:17 pm
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pk wrote:
Still interested to hear when this golden period was...


Probably around 1983 to 1988. We came 3rd, 11th, 4th plus Premiership champions, 3rd and 6th. In the last three seasons we had things like Wigan going through the year only losing twice - to us home and away, and we had the famous WW3 game.

After 1988 things tailed off: between 1988 and 1993 we then finished 11th, 8th (with the Lancashire Cup and making Wembley), 9th (with the Regal Trophy), 4th and 8th before the Jonathan Davies season. I started in 1989, so I missed the better times, but I know what Wires71 says about those being enjoyable days at Wilderspool. I really loved RL back then. The memories feel better than the league positions suggest.

One reason for this could be the general selective memory bias when you think back to being a kid/teenager where you remember the highlights (like the excitement of Christmas morning and getting your presents) and forget a lot of the realities (like being forced to sit through boring family Christmas events getting told off by adults) and probably a lot of the forum members who like this era were kids or teenagers at the time. There were days where there were great atmospheres in the derbies and also more cup competitions back then so more semi finals and finals. One of my favourite early memories was that Lancashire Cup semi final when we beat Widnes who had just won the WCC against Canberra. A lot of the rest of the time, Wilderspool had poor crowds with not much away support and we had an annoying tendency to lose against weaker sides at home, which persisted right through the rest of Wilderspool's life. Some people talk about the Wilderspool fortress, the zoo, I never saw that, it must have been pre-1989.

Another reason that era gets remembered more fondly than the results imply was that we had a lot of P&B legends/cult heroes around at that time who the crowd identified with. Unfortunately, we also probably carried a lot of other players who weren't that good, or certainly weren't up to the standard of the teams at the top, which is why we were in the shadow of the likes of Wigan, Widnes, Leeds and Saints. That 88/89 season I mentioned on the first page, where we finished one place above relegation, had a team including Lyon, Blake, Drummond, Woods, Boyd, Roach, Roberts and Mike Gregory, which probably tells you the rest weren't great.

There was no internet back then and so people seemed less angry, or at least were less likely to be influenced to the constant views of the grumpy crowd/negatives. I can think of some players who would have had a hard time from this forum: Rocky Turner, Chris O'Sullivan, Paul Darbyshire, Forster. There was less demanding of success and this thing of "if we finish second we are bottlers/its a failed season". I think if the forum had been around, there would have been a lot more pressure on Brian Johnson.
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