Blast from the Past: Dewsbury win 1973 Championship Final

Blast from the Past: Dewsbury win 1973 Championship Final

World Cup winner Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson says winning the 1973 Championship Final with Dewsbury was the most satisfying moment of his career.

Sky Sports pundit Stevo was Dewsbury’s hooker when they shocked Leeds in the final at Odsal.

He said: “That Championship side was best the bunch of friends I've ever had. I always dreamed of playing for my country and it was a dream to win the World Cup and score that try, but when it comes down to deep personal satisfaction, seeing the Dewsbury lads run around with that trophy - you can’t beat that.”

Dewsbury were written off by many after losing a Challenge Cup semi-final earlier in the season against Bradford, but Stevo insists that defeat provided huge motivation.

“Four or five years before 1973 we were written off as not having the guts and the skills, but we knew something was coming good.

“We were red-hot favourites to go to Wembley but Bradford duffed us up. I’ve got no problems with saying that was a turning point – it was.

“We were so confident before that semi-final that the club had arranged a celebration at a nightclub in Dewsbury. You can imagine what that was like after we lost. It was shocking. We just stared at each other and said ‘what a stupid bunch of blokes we are’. We’d blown it.”

He added: “Our coach Tommy Smales said ‘we’ve still got the play-offs’, but we were in eighth place. Our first game was at home against Oldham, then we had to win away at Featherstone and Warrington before we got to the final.

“Leeds were 1/10 favourites. We’d played them earlier in the year at Odsal in the Yorkshire Cup final and they just ripped us apart. We couldn’t live with John Atkinson, Alan Smith, Alan Hardisty and Sid Hynes that day, so we knew it was going to be tough going in the Championship final.

“Our big thing was that we had all these complicated set moves. We had about 15 of them with blokes running all over the place. Come the final, we knew we couldn’t match them if we played tough – so Tommy just said ‘use the moves’.

“We stunned them with so many moves, it was incredible. At times I thought I’d disappeared up my own backside! It was quite ludicrous.

“We’d learned that Bradford had duffed us up and we couldn’t do that to Leeds - they had too much class. Thankfully we went the other way and didn’t play safety first, we just threw every single thing we had at them.”

Stevo revealed how he had been suffering from bronchitis in the lead up to the match, a fact that was kept secret at the time.

“I only trained lightly on Monday in the build up to the final, then had a light run on the Friday. Nobody knew at all. I remember lifting the trophy and when I got back down to the pitch, I just handed it to the lads as I could hardly walk.

“My other memory is giving my teeth to the physio before the game, rather than leaving them in the dressing room. I told him I’d need them for the pictures for when we’d won, but as it turned out I couldn’t get to him after full time.

“I can still see him now holding a handkerchief with my teeth and I couldn’t get to him. As a result I’ve got my mouth shut in every single photo.

“It was a brilliant day - one of the biggest upsets in rugby league history, and a little town winning the Championship for the first time. It was all down to team spirit.”

Stevo has no doubts about rugby league’s enduring appeal. Asked why he loves rugby league, he said: “It's the greatest game of all. It tests you physically and mentally, but most of all it's a game that sets you up for life. You get ups and downs, good days and bad days, but you just keep going.”

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