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Workington Town legend Sol Roper has passed away

Sol Roper passed away suddenly on Wednesday. Credit: Jim Davis

Workington Town RLFC have reacted to the sad news of the passing of one of its most popular and greatest ever players. Sol Roper passed away suddenly on Wednesday.

The club have moved immediately to pay a moving tribute to a player who made his debut in 1954 enjoying a rugby league career that lasted almost 18 years.

Paying tribute vice chairman Mark Fryer added

Everyone at the club, and indeed across the area as a whole, will be saddened at this news. Sol may have been diminutive is size was but was a giant of the sport and a hugely respected figure. The word legend is perhaps used too often in the modern game these days but by any standard, or any era, he was a legend of the game.

Sol attended games and club functions with enthusiasm and always cut a very smart figure in his club blazer and tie, we will all miss him terribly, but we will retain many outstanding memories of Our thoughts are with all the family at this very sad time time.”

– vice chairman Mark Fryer

John “Sol” Roper hailed from Pica, near Distington. He was a schoolboy prodigy who captained Cumberland Schools in 1951.

He played for Distington and Hensingham and was selected for England Amateurs when he was only 17, scoring a try in England’s 23-0 victory over France at Headingly on 17th April 1954.

Sol Roper was a first-teamer with Workington Town, striking up a decade-long telepathic understanding with Harry Archer – probably the most celebrated half-back pairing in Cumbrian history.

Sol’s first season with Town, 1954/55, was eventful. Sixteen days after his Town debut he made his County debut, at only eighteen-years-old , when he played against Yorkshire on his home ground, Borough Park.

When the Challenge Cup came round in 1955 few thought much of Town’s chances but they surprised the Rugby League world. Dewsbury Celtic, Leeds and St Helens were beaten before Town accounted for Featherstone 13-2 in the semi-final at Leeds, when Sol was heavily concussed.

In the final against Barrow at Wembley, Sol was the youngest man on the pitch. Again he was in the wars. After 52 minutes he was stretchered off with a shoulder injury. Although he returned to play heroically on the wing, Barrow had established a winning lead and Town eventually lost 12-21

In 1958 Sol was back at Wembley as Town’s Captain, at that time the youngest ever Wembley skipper.

The final pitted them against Wigan but once again they lost, injuries being the crucial factor. It was the same story a week later in their Championship Final against Hull at Odsal.

This time second-rower Cec Thompson was taken from the field after 25 minutes with Town leading 3-0. He never returned and Hull won 20-3.

Sol finally picked up a winner’s medal with Town in 1962, when they beat Widnes 10-0 in the inaugural Western Division Championship final at Wigan, following a 9-9 draw at the same venue.

The Roper-Archer duo’s superiority at half-back was a vital factor.

Sol carried on playing for Town until 1966, amassing 399 appearances. As a scrum-half he knew all the tricks of his trade. He fitted the stereotype – invariably the smallest man on the pitch, but just as invariably the gutsiest. He was renowned for his low, clean tackling, his stamina and his guile. His total of 94 tries was a testimony to his attacking values.

After a year out of the professional ranks Sol joined Whitehaven and gave five years splendid service with 82 appearances (11 tries 9 goals). While at the Rec he extended his Cumberland career to fifteen years, and 21 caps, one of the longest on record.

His son Tony and Grandson Jonathan both enjoyed successful rugby league careers.

Sol carried on playing for Town until 1966, amassing 399 appearances
His total of tries at Workington Town is a testimony to his attacking values.


Workington leapfrog Whitehaven in league table

There were mixed fortunes for the two teams. Credit: ITV Border

Workington Town leapfrogged Whitehaven RLFC in the Kingstone Press League One table this weekend.

Following on from their victory in the West Cumbria derby, Town beat the London Broncos 29-18, to go eighth in the table.

Whitehaven's slump continued. They went down 16-34 against Dewsbury Rams, and now sit tenth in the table.

WATCH: West Cumbria rugby league derby

Yesterday saw the big west Cumbrian derby between Whitehaven and Workington Town.

Local rivalry means this is always a big game but with both clubs fighting the threat of relegation the stakes could hardly have been higher and the stage was set for an epic encounter. For one set of supporters the reality was rather different. Ryan Dollard reports.

Workington outperform Whitehaven to claim derby victory

Whitehaven have suffered a heavy defeat to Workington Town in today's West Cumbrian Rugby League derby.

Haven were beaten 6-28 in front of more than 1,700 supporters at the Recreation Ground.

The home side looked in danger of ending the game scoreless until a late consolation try gave a hint of respectability to the scoreline.

  • Watch all the action from the derby tomorrow on Lookaround at 6pm.


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