Defying Expectation (Again) – Halifax RLFC 2019 Season Review

Defying expectation in multiple ways this time around were Halifax RLFC, who endured a rather mixed 2019 season.

From being the first non-Super League club to grace a Challenge Cup Semi-final in 14 years to finishing rather low in the table compared to recent season, ‘Fax certainly had plenty of highs and lows.

It could have been considered a season of transition though however, with plenty of changes in playing and coaching personnel.

Maybe they might return as play-off contenders in 2020, who knows as we look back at what was a historic and interesting season from the Blue and Whites.

Best result: Bradford Bulls 16-20 Halifax RLFC

No doubt about it, their shock away win against arch-rivals Bradford Bulls in the Coral Challenge Cup was their greatest result.

The Bulls led at half-time thanks to a try from Rowan Miles and a penalty goal from Jordan Lilley.

But ‘Fax stormed back and took the lead thanks to an eight point try from Steve Tyrer.

Both sides then exchanged tries through Jake Webster and Scott Grix before Matty Wildie’s score with ten minutes left look to have sealed it for Bradford.

But Fax’ had other ideas as James Woodburn-Hall surged through for the winner five minutes from time to stun the hosts.

The result earned ‘Fax a trip to the Reebok stadium, Bolton to face Super League leaders St Helens and though they were expectedly defeated, they certainly did not disgrace themselves, especially by earning bragging rights over their nearest and dearest!


Worst result: Toulouse Olympique 56-4 Halifax RLFC

Some may argue but their lowest point has to be their 50+ drubbing away against Toulouse Olympique.

These cubs have been close rivals in recent seasons when the Super 8s were at stake but Toulouse upset the apple cart here by delivering a devastating performance for their visitors to handle.

Anthony Marion and Player of the Year Mark Kheirallah scored hat-tricks, with further tries coming from Joe Bretherton, Mathieu Jussaume, Bastien Ader and Ilias Bergal, with Kheirallah also landing eight goals.

All ‘Fax could manage was a consolation try through Shaun Robinson as the West Yorkshire club were well beaten on a miserable evening down in France.

True, the French side are full-time compared to ‘Fax, who are part-time, but was it not only two seasons ago when ‘Fax travelled to Toulouse and recorded a 16-8 upset?

A result that eventually helped them into the Super 8s Qualifiers, however, with former coach Richard Marshall already gone, his replacement Simon Grix was always going to have a difficult job emulating his predessesors achievements.

Perhaps a harsh lesson for ‘Fax but one they can learn from should they ever desire vengeance as well as the will to avoid a repeat.


Main man: Scott Murrell

Quite a few have impressed in recent years but one who is still going strong is ‘tireless’ veteran Scott Murrell.

The 34-year-old ‘Fax Captain enjoyed a historic seventh season with the Blue and Whites, having guided them to a Challenge Cup semi-final being the main achievement.

Though they finished considerably lower, the club are arguably in transition, meaning Murrell will have faced challenges in working with different personnel and circumstances.

Regardless, Murrell always performs strong, boasting an accurate kicking and passing game as well as leading by example with his indomitable wit.

He may be approaching the back end of his career but can easily pass on his wisdom and experience to any fortunate individual should they wish to take the club even better than he ever did.


Predicted 4th – Finished 8th

After three seasons in the Super 8s Qualifiers, ‘Fax dropped quite drastically to 8th place, something of a surprise on the grand scale of things.

However, the news that Marshall’s contract would not be renewed inevitably saw his departure, leaving Simon Grix on the coaching hot seat.

Though Grix would go on and coach ‘Fax to a Cup semi-final, ‘Fax could not keep up with their ever-improving opponents, something they will want to address in 2020.

The club though remain part-time so their season could have been expected considering the limited resources compared to some of their opposition.

They certainly have the capability to mount a serious challenge upon the play-offs next season.

Possessing a talented squad of youth and experience, perhaps a handful of recruits to boost their depth could catch their rivals off guard heading into next season? Who knows.