The Story Of The Lost Rugby League World Cup Trophy

The Original Rugby League World Cup trophy was stolen from a Bradford hotel whilst on open display in 1970. From there it took an amazing journey before it found its way back home to the RFL headquarters where it resides today.

The trophy was last held aloft by Australian Rugby League legend Johnny Raper after Australia’s 20-2 win over France at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the 10th of June in 1968 to claim the forth World Cup title.

The trophy was then brought to England prior to the 1970 World Cup and took pride of place in the Midland Hotel in Bradford, the headquarters of the visiting Australian Rugby League team.

It was stolen on the night of Sunday, November 1st, 1970. It was a shock to the games administrators and an embarrassment to the Australian Rugby League who had been responsible for its safe keeping.

Oddly enough, it was not the trophy to be used for the Final the following Saturday at Headingley. With the commencement of sponsorship, administrators decided to play for a more meaningless sponsored trophy and keep the original safe and on display at the Midland Hotel.

Twenty years passed, the Original World Cup was forgotten and life went on….until one day fate would see the Original World Cup fall into the hands of a man that was determined to find its original owner.

In 1990 the Original Rugby League World Cup was found. It was discovered in a ditch used for illegal tipping only a few miles from where it disappeared.

For six week, Stephen Uttley who came across it with his wife Elizabeth and his brother in law Frank Nagyvardi were totally unaware of the significance of the find.

Uttley made many inquiries to local rugby clubs including Bradford Northern (Known today as the Bradford Bulls) but his quest to find its original owners proved unsuccessful. Yorkshire Television apparently deemed Uttley’s pleas for help as un news worthy.

Eventually, after the trophy remained in the boot of his car for two weeks, he took the trophy to the local police who returned the trophy to him after a statutory 28 days in which no one claimed the trophy.

At this stage, Mr Uttley decided to donate it to close friend Terry Fawthrop who was the proprietor of the White Rose Health Club at Idle, Bradford.

In a lucky coincidence, this was the same club frequented by Warrington and Kiwi International Gary Mercer during his stay in Bradford. Apparently the trophy was on a course to be altered into a Body Building trophy that would then have been awarded to club members.

Luckily, this great piece of Rugby League history was saved by the determination of Mr Uttley who was determined to find the Cups original owners.

Following his story in the local “Telegraph and Argus” newspaper, where he took the trophy to have it photographed, it was subsequently identified by reporter Delaney as the Original Rugby League World Cup that had been stolen 20 years earlier.

He notified the police, the Telegraph and Argus reporter and a Rugby Football League official of this remarkable find.

Wednesday, 30th of May, 1990, the Rugby League World Cup Spends A Night In London.

The following morning Delaney was surprised to find that Mr Uttley was still in possession of this great piece of history and not one RFL official saw the trophy until it was actually handed over on the following Friday. By this time though the story was getting plenty of media attention from around the world.

Delaney visited Mr Uttley’s home later on Wednesday and convinced of its authenticity he once again contacted the RFL to convey his feelings that the trophy was still at considerable risk. Mr Uttley was understandably very anxious about its security at his council home and his first words to Delaney were “Are you going to take it now?”.

The trophy and its current owner were now under the spotlight and receiving many requests for interviews and photo opportunities. The chance that this great piece of League history could be damage, or go missing once again were very real.

Awakened in from their bed at 10:30pm that evening, Mr and Mrs Uttley, along with their now famous trophy, were whisked by Taxi down to Sky Televisions London studios for an early morning interview the next day. That night, Wednesday, 30th of May, 1990, the Rugby League World Cup was kept in a London Hotel.

Thankfully, Mr Uttley had more sense then the Australian Rugby League had 20 years earlier and he kept it safe in his hotel room.

On his return to Bradford a now harassed Mr Uttley continued negotiations with the RFL. Originally believing its rightful owners were the Australian Rugby League, Mr Uttley was finally convinced of the International Boards ownership of the trophy and he agree’d to hand it over the following day. Mr Uttley then went to the trouble of delivering the trophy to a Bradford solicitor for safe keeping over night.

On Friday, the 1st of June 1990, the trophy was handed over to Roger Millward outside the White Rose Health club at 10:30 in the morning.

The Original Rugby League World Cup now resides at the Rugby Football League headquarters.

Standing 2′ 6″ high and weighing an incredible 25 kilograms the magnificent trophy was donated by the French Rugby League under its President Paul Barriere for the first Rugby League World Cup competition run in 1954. Because of its absence it has only be played for four time, in 1954, 1957, 1960 and 1968.

Contributors And Credits
Sean Fagan –
Helps me bring a new of the myths and legends about the World Cup into focus. Its good to correspond with someone that loves the history of the game as much as I do.

Tony Collins – Rugby Football League Archivist
He provided me with an article from “Code 13” magazine written by Trevor Delaney from 1990 which helped me put together the history of the Origin Rugby League World Cup.

Use Of Information
If you would like to use any information gathered on this web site, by all means do so. But if you could provide a credit to this web site it would be appreciated. I have worked really hard on this section of the web site and have really had to search for this information over a long period of time. So give me some credit damn it! 🙂

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