Bramley Rugby League legend: Walter Ballantyne


by Paul Abraham

Walter Ballantyne was born on 8 October 1907, which was the day before Bramley Rugby League club made history when they played the New Zealand touring team at the Barley Mow ground in the first ever Rugby League (known as the Northern Union at the time) tour match to be played in this country.

For the record Bramley lost 6-25 in front of a crowd of 6,000.

Walter, or “Walt” as he preferred, made a try-scoring debut in the 8-5 victory at the Barley Mow ground in March 1928 against Halifax and made a further five appearances before the end of the season.  

The 1928-29 season saw him play 35 times in the amber and black and crossed for a total of four tries in the home games against Halifax (8-0) Featherstone (18-7) and finally when he scored two tries against Keighley in an 18-3 victory.

The following season resulted in another 36 appearances, which brought him tries at Dewsbury (12-5) and Batley (7-7). By now “Walt” had become one of the first names on the team-sheet and the 1930-31 campaign saw him score seven tries in his 35 appearances.

The 0-11 home defeat to Oldham in the Rugby League Challenge Cup was his 100th first team appearance for the Bramley club. His seven tries came from two against Wakefield Trinity in the 18-36 away loss and tries in the home games versus Keighley (26-5) Barrow (5-15) and Hull Kingston Rovers (9-13) while he also crossed for tries in the away defeats at Featherstone Rovers (5-13) and Barrow (13-44).

Another 33 appearances during the 1931-32 brought him an impressive haul of eleven tries.

Having scored tries in the home fixtures against Featherstone (5-8) and York (12-27) and in the 11-50 away defeat at Hunslet in the Yorkshire Cup, he scored in three consecutive matches, against Featherstone away (9-15) at home to Dewsbury (12-0) and away at Hull KR (10-24).

He scored in the thrilling 13-17 defeat at Leeds and in the 31-13 thumping of Bradford Northern, before scoring in consecutive matches in the home victories versus Castleford (7-3) and Keighley (14-3). He scored his last try of the season in a 6-12 reverse at Batley in a RL Cup tie.

1932-33 and he enjoyed playing at the Barley Mow as he scored tries there against Hull KR (8-24) York (12-22) Batley (12-5) and Leeds (7-11) while also scoring in the 17-29 defeat at local rivals Hunslet in his 29 appearances.

The following season saw “Walt” moved into the forwards and the Bramley faithful saw him cross the try-line three times in the home fixtures against Batley (22-8) Leeds (12-38) and Dewsbury (9-21). The highlight of the season was appearing for Bramley against the touring Australia team which, despite losing 6-53, was an occasion to savour.

The first match of the 1934-35 campaign against Keighley at home was his 200th first team appearance, unfortunately it brought a 2-30 defeat for the Villagers.

He finished the season with five tries in his 37 appearances, including tries in the visits to Broughton Rangers (14-30) and Batley (7-17) while scoring in the home matches versus York (7-14) which was abandoned and the losses against Hull KR (10-14) and Wakefield (9-24).

Season 1935-36 was his most productive campaign of his Bramley career as he was the club’s top try-scorer with fourteen tries in 39 appearances which included his 50th try for the club in the 7-29 defeat at Hull KR.

He scored two tries in the superb 22-4 home victory against St Helens and further tries at home in the matches versus Hull (7-16) Leeds in the Yorkshire Cup defeat (8-37) Featherstone (10-8) Streatham & Mitchem (14-7) Batley (8-0) Hunslet (7-11) and Hull KR (14-7) while crossing the whitewash at Huddersfield (13-43) St Helens (3-31) Hunslet (11-18) and in the final match of the season an 11-20 loss at Acton and Willesden.

The 1936-37 season was a quieter one for Walt as he scored just two tries in his 18 appearances these coming in the away defeats at Batley (8-14) and Leigh (11-26). The following season he scored in three consecutive matches first in the 8-22 defeat at Widnes then in the 21-9 victory at home to Featherstone and then in the 16-29 loss at Broughton Rangers in his twelve appearances.

His appearance on March 30th in the 0-21 defeat at Batley was his 300th first team appearance and so became the first player in Bramley’s history to reach that milestone.

The 1938-39 season, the last full season before the start if the Second World War brought him four tries in the 22 matches he played. This included two tries in an excellent 24-8 away victory at Rochdale Hornets, where the second try would prove to be his 61st and final try in the amber and black of Bramley.

His other tries earlier in the season were in the 10-17 away defeat at Hull in the Yorkshire Cup and his final try at the Barley Mow ground was in the brilliant 37-11 demolition of Leigh.

He didn’t play in the 1939-40 season and made his 328th appearance for the club in his only start of the 1940-41 campaign when he played in the 5-23 home defeat to Dewsbury.

His 61 career tries were the most scored by a Bramley player as was his 328 appearances, both of which would last a great number of years. A true Bramley legend and record-breaker, Walt passed away in the spring of 1977 at the age of 69.

Bramley career totals

Season          Appearances           Tries          Points

1927-28                6                                 1                3

1928-29              35                                 4              12

1929-30              36                                 2                6

1930-31              35                                 7               21

1931-32              33                                11              33

1932-33              29                                  5              15

1933-34              25                                  3                9

1934-35              37                                  5              15

1935-36              39                                14              42

1936-37              18                                  2                6

1937-38              12                                  3                9

1938-39              22                                  4              12

1939-40                0                                                     0

1940-41                1                                                     0

Total                 328                                61              183

John Baron Thu, 27 Feb 2020, 10:00 to John, me

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