Tributes paid to legendary rugby league coach Maurice Bamford

Maurice Bamford.
Maurice Bamford.

Tributes have been paid to legendary former coach Maurice Bamford, who has died aged 83 after a long illness.

Born in Kirkstall, Leeds, Bamford was one of rugby league’s most well-known characters, particularly in the 1980s when he coached Wigan, Leeds – twice – and Great Britain.

Maurice Bamford.

Maurice Bamford.

Former Test prop Karl Harrison recalled: “Maurice gave me my break, he signed me from BRK in Gildersome for Bramley. I was promoted into the first team very quickly and he got me a trip to New Zealand to advance my career, when I was 19, in the Auckland League.

“I have kept in touch with him and he wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but he was a real rugby league man. He had some big jobs – Leeds, Wigan and Great Britain – and he will be sadly missed.”

Bamford played for Hull’s second team and Dewsbury in the 1950s and 60s before returning to the amateur game with Burton Sports and Stanningley, where he gained his first coaching experience.

He rejoined Dewsbury as ‘A’ team coach and had a brief spell in charge of the first team, then worked as assistant to Peter Fox, who died earlier this year, at Bramley and Bradford Northern.

It is very sad – we’ve lost someone who had so much passion and love for the greatest game of all.

Garry Schofield

Bamford really made his name at Halifax from February, 1978, to May, 1980, leading them to a Yorkshire Cup final, the last four of the Challenge Cup and promotion to Division One.

Not kept on at Thrum Hall, he moved to Huddersfield, Wigan and Bramley and was coaching amateur club Oulton Welfare when Leeds appointed him in November, 1983.

The Loiners were in dire form, but Bamford’s first match as boss was a win over Hull KR in a JPS Trophy tie in November, 1983 and Leeds went on to win the competition during an 18-game unbeaten run.

Bamford coached Leeds until February, 1985, when he took charge of Great Britain. He returned to Leeds from December, 1986, to April, 1988 and later coached Workington Town, Dewsbury, Bramley, Blackpool and various clubs in the amateur game.

After retiring from coaching he became a respected author and journalist in the rugby league press.

Garry Schofield played under Bamford for Great Britain and was signed by him at Leeds.

“He was a larger than life character,” Schofield recalled. “He was a very old-fashioned coach, technically he wasn’t the best, but as a motivator he was very good, spot on.

“He was one of those you either loved or hated, but I got on all right with him. He wouldn’t pamper you – that’s for sure.

“It is very sad – we’ve lost someone who had so much passion and love for the greatest game of all.”

Ray Abbey coached with Bamford at Leeds and Bramley.

He recalled: “When he was coaching at Dewsbury he also coached an amateur side in Bradford.

“What he put into rugby league was unbelievable and his record speaks for itself. He had good times, bad times and indifferent times, but he never lost his love for rugby league.

“He was a rugby league character and a rugby league man through and through.”

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington described Bamford as a “real rugby league stalwart”.

He said: “He was passionate about the community game and a great servant to the professional game as well.”

Of his record of having coached Wigan, Leeds and Great Britain, Hetherington added: “And Milford!

“It’s fair to say that is unique and he will have had just as much pride out of coaching Milford as Great Britain.”