Throughout the history of rugby league plenty of players and coaches have left impressions on the sport in their own unique way.
Rugby league will never forget the name Peter Fox. In tribute to man himself we add another one to the in- depth series, looking further into the career of one of the sport’s greatest sons….
Born out of Sharlston, West Yorkshire, Fox endured a 13-year playing career, that saw him turn out for the likes of Featherstone, Batley, Hull KR, Batley and Wakefield. Also, alongside his brothers, Neil and Don, they would go on to form one of the most formidable rugby league families the sport had ever seen. Although Don and Neil will forever be known for their playing careers and abilities on the field, it was clear to see that Peter’s life in rugby league laid within the confides of coaching.
A journey that began back in 1971 with former club Featherstone, making an instantaneous impact with the West Yorkshire side as he coached them to back to back Challenge Cup final appearances in the 1973 and 1974, claiming the win in the former. After four successful seasons with Featherstone he would move on to Wakefield for a couple of seasons before taking up the head coach role with Bramley in 1976. Once again making his presence felt, leading the team to promotion into Division One during his one and only season in charge.
A stiffer test followed upon being appointed as the head coach of both England and Great Britain in 1977 and 1978 retrospectively, achieving a feat that that was great in itself when he claimed victory over Australia in 1978. During his time as international coach, the Yorkshire sporting legend, endured a spell with Bradford Northern where he would arguably achieve his greatest success as a coach and most probably in his whole coaching career. A historic debut season saw Fox build and lead a team to its first ever Championship title in 1977 before adding further triumph with another win the following season.
Over the course of both seasons his eye for recruitment became one of his biggest attributes and were pinnacle to Bradford’s historic success. A Bradford Northern side that eventually featured the likes of David Redfearn, Keith Mumby and Ellery Hanley took centre stage and delivered and by the end of his nine years in charge of the Bradford club, Fox had led his team to consecutive RFL championship wins along with a John Player Special trophy win and RFL Yorkshire Cup win. The achievements themselves being something Bradford had not seen since the 40s and 50s. There is no doubt he will hold such a fond place in the hearts of Bradford fans for such a storied amount of success as he dominantly created a piece of Bradford history, achieving something no other Bradford coach had done up until then.
The latter of his coaching career saw spells with both Leeds and Featherstone before a welcome return to Bradford in 1991. Another five years with the club saw Fox once again leave a tidy reminder as to what he was able to do by going toe to toe with a straight up dominant Wigan side during the 1993-94 season. A season which saw Bradford finish as runners up and only behind the Cherry and Whites on points difference.
Now, you can easily talk about those times at Bradford with a great distinction, but it would not be enough as to speak to man as to which we saw in the media. The name ‘Fox’ is a name that will seemingly stand the test of time throughout the realms of maybe not just British rugby league but the entire sport in general. If you look throughout his coaching career, there is no question the man had a great eye and knowledge of the game, with his nuisance for building quality sides a great testament to his ability as a coach. As mentioned before although he may have had the glittering playing career the likes of his brothers had, he eased into coaching life like he was born to do it. A perfect fit for someone who never lacked confidence as he was able to transfer this onto his players on a constant basis. When you look at the stories and the one aspect of his persona that always stood out was his will to just be as upfront and honest with his opinions. The former Bradford Bulls coach and former player of Fox’s, Brian Noble in tribute to Yorkshireman said that,
“Where professional sport nowadays seems to be sterilised and homogenised, he was clearly the antidote to that. He had an opinion and he let everybody know his opinion.”
A true testament to the coach and man he was and right now we could argue that the sport of rugby league may need someone like that once again. The IQ for the game and the character of the man bundled together made him of the sports finest coaches and most memorable figureheads. I may not have witnessed the man at the height of his powers but know how much I would have enjoyed seeing it. A man who delivered a breath of fresh air and one who will forever be missed from the beautiful game. A true legend of the sport.
Thank you, Peter Fox.