How former 'invincibles' boss Warren Jowitt saw the potential in Dewsbury Rams' title-winning head coach Liam Finn

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
50 years after legendary head coach Tommy Smales guided Dewsbury to an unprecedented first, and only, Championship crown, Liam Finn has led the Rams to the League One title - 14 years after playing a starring role in the club’s “invincible” season under the watchful eye of Warren Jowitt.

Smales’ historic achievement created a lasting legacy and joyous scenes of celebration and bewilderment in the town centre which have never been seen again, as the Dewsbury heroes returned from Odsal on that memorable day, Saturday, May 19, 1973, after beating Leeds 22-13.

Jowitt, a former formidable forward for Bradford and Wakefield, albeit in the third division, similarly called on some young prospects, including 21-year-old Keegan Hirst and Patch Walker, who, at 23, was exceptional with the boot, mixed in with the slightly more experienced Finn, 26, and top try scorer Andy Bostock, 24, to embark on a famous journey in 2009 which would see them win all 18 Championship One league games.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Invincibles. It had never been completed before in summer rugby. In fact, it was only the second time it had happened in the history of the sport after Hull FC’s heroics in 1978-79 to dominate the second division.

Dewsbury Rams' Liam Finn in action against York Knights in 2009Dewsbury Rams' Liam Finn in action against York Knights in 2009
Dewsbury Rams' Liam Finn in action against York Knights in 2009

Finn proved a star throughout the 2009 campaign and was officially recognised as the league’s player of the season. Jowitt, unsurprisingly, won the coach equivalent.

And a proud Jowitt, who had also previously spent time coaching in the club’s academy, could not be happier at his young protege's success, who came within a whisker of mirroring that unbeaten year but for the recent agonising 16-14 defeat at Hunslet.

“I’d like to think that the things I did at Dewsbury, with the professionalism I brought into the club, that Liam has carried that on,” the former head coach said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I am really pleased for him and proud that he nearly emulated what we did.

Warren Jowitt with his son, BillyWarren Jowitt with his son, Billy
Warren Jowitt with his son, Billy

“He was a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to have in the side. You could always tell he was going to be a coach.”

Maybe that stems from the extra hours Finn spent on the training pitch with Jowitt’s then-eight-year-old son, Billy, who would go on to sign for Bradford Bulls.

“Liam used to spend hours with Billy, kicking and passing. The hours he spent training with Liam Finn put my son in good stead as he now plays professionally.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, Jowitt, who also played with Finn during the Rams’ 2006 National League Two title winning campaign, admitted they didn’t always see “eye-to-eye”.

On their head coach-player relationship, he fondly remembered: “We never saw eye-to-eye all the time but I was a bit of an old head then and he was a young lad.

"But, as he’s got older and wiser, he’s now realised why I said certain things to him. It was just to get more out of him.

“I pulled him into the office once to say he needed to do better on the football side of things. He was actually doing a really good job but I thought I’d put some pressure on him in a different way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He said: ‘I disagree with you.’ I said: ‘You can disagree with me but I’m the coach and I’m right.’

“Liam went out of his way to prove me wrong. He did everything that was asked of him. He was absolutely outstanding that year for Dewsbury.

“All the players were outstanding.”

They were. Eighteen league games. Eighteen victories, which started off with a 28-2 triumph over York after a pre-season which began as early as October.

“It was very early but my philosophy was that the fitter and stronger we were, then the better we were going to be on the field,” revealed Jowitt, who was coach at Dewsbury from 2008 until 2012.

“We got them fit and we got them strong.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was all about building a team with team-building exercises, army camps and nights out. We did everything as a team.

"To create a winning team you’ve got to create that team environment and get the players to buy into it.”

He added: “When we did the video session (after York), you’d think we’d lost 50-0 because I pulled it apart!

"I honestly believe that that one video session put me in good stead for the season because the players knew they couldn’t relax or rest on their laurels.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It snowballed from there. I remember saying to Mark Sawyer ‘What do you want me to do this season?’ He said: ‘Just to make the play-offs, that will be fine.’

"Halfway through the season, we’d won all our games. He said: ‘You need to get promoted now!’

“I was under a bit of pressure but I couldn’t let the players see that.”

The splendid winning run continued and Jowitt, with the help of Finn, created summer rugby history.

Fourteen years later, Finn has joined Jowitt, and Smales, on Dewsbury Rams’ head coach Hall of Fame.