History: 2004 and the first season of the Bramley Buffaloes

Neill Foulds, Bramley Buffaloes

Remembered by Paul Abraham

After the demise of the professional club in 1999 the loyal “Villagers” fans were shocked but mobilised to form their own “fans owned and run” club, Bramley Rugby League Community Club.

Applications to rejoin the League playing at Farsley Celtic and Morley Rugby were rejected by the RFL but the new supporters’ owned club, constituted on co-operative lines as an Industrial and Provident Society, successfully applied to join the then National League Three.

The famous amber and black shirts returned to competitive rugby league when the Bramley Buffaloes hosted Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks in the inaugural NL3 game on Saturday, 1 May 2004.

In front of over 1,200 emotional and proud fans the Buffaloes dominated the match and looked set to celebrate the new era with a memorable win, sadly it was not to be as a triple try blitz from Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks in the last five minutes denied Bramley Buffaloes a deserved first victory in an entertaining 14-14 draw.  

The historic line-up that day at the Arthur Miller Stadium at Stanningley was, Beggs, Wilson, Spurr, Smith, Flynn, Pendlebiury, Collins, Greenwood, Bowker, Marks, O’Connor, Gardener, Wilcock.   SUBS Bew, Sellers, Gratton, Summers.

The following week saw the “Buffs” travel to eventual league champions Coventry Bears and suffered a 48-18 defeat. The next three matches resulted in two brilliant away wins at Gateshead Storm (32-16) and Bradford Dudley Hill (28-14) with a home defeat to Warrington Woolston Rovers by 8-32 sandwiched in between. A crowd of over 600 saw Bramley defeat Huddersfield Underbank Rangers16-12 in a titanic tussle in the next game with the Buffaloes assistant coach Richard Harrison calling it “a performance of character.”

Two nail-biting away matches followed with a 20-26 loss to London Storm and an impressive 34-28 victory at Manchester Knights.  Bramley turned on the style in their following home match as they destroyed Carlisle Centurions 72-0 with 500 diehard supporters witnessing a brace of tries each for Neil Foulds, Scott Pendlebury, Simon Bowker and Ross Gratton with full-back Mark McManus kicking eight goals in torrential conditions.

A 24-16 home win against another team of Centurions, this time from St Albans was followed by defeats at Birmingham Bulldogs (20-30) and a home loss by 14-20 to Hemel Stags.  The Bramley faithful were back to cheering on a winning team as the Buffaloes won their next three matches, firstly a 44-4 win at Essex Eels followed by the 68-6 hammering of Gateshead Storm in sweltering conditions with Ryan Taylor leading the scoring with two tries and three goals, while prop-forward Tim Orr crashed over for two tries. This was followed by a tough 26-20 victory at Warrington Woolston Rovers and after the match Buffaloes coach Phil Hellewell was ecstatic: “I was a very relieved man when the full-time whistle went, and this really was a victory to savour.”

A crowd of 900 attended the next home game but sadly most of them going home disappointed as the “Buffs” went down to a 20-30 loss to Bradford Dudley Hill.  

The Buffaloes regrouped and then went on a four-match winning run starting with an away victory at Huddersfield Underbank Rangers by 44-16 with Chris Gardener scoring a try and kicking five goals. The Buffaloes then triumphed 32-18 against South London Storm with half-backs Scott Pendlebury and Marc Gibson grabbing two tries each. As Manchester Knights had dropped out of the league Bramley were handed a 24-0 “victory” before a trip to Carlisle Centurions being their last league match of the season and brought a decisive 38-18 victory with full-back Shaun Flynn leading the way with a try and seven goals.  

The Play-offs took Bramley to Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks and despite taking an impressive and vocal travelling support the Buffaloes produced a poor performance and went down by 8 to 38.  Buffaloes coach Phil Hellewell was angry with his side’s display: “We never clicked today. We never looked positive with the ball in hand and paid the price. Sheffield attacked with a lot more belief and I am disappointed that we’ve slipped up in this fashion.”

However, Hellewell was full of praise for the Bramley supporters: “Once again we had some fantastic travelling support that made their feelings known on more than one occasion. We need that kind of backing again next week if we are to extend our season and keep our play-off dreams alive.”

The Buffaloes responded in brilliant fashion as they travelled to St Albans and won a thrilling see-saw battle by 26-18 to set up a Play-off semi-final at Coventry Bears.  In a pulsating match the Buffaloes gave everything before going down 18-32 which flattered the Bears, as with the score standing at 16-20, the Buffaloes suffered a cruel blow as playmaker Marc Gibson was led from the field with what looked like a serious leg injury, after intensive treatment on the side lines he was able to return to the field, but not before the Coventry side increased their led to 26-16 with a converted try in the 52nd minute.

From this point the Bramley side were chasing the game, and with their play maker reduced to a hobble, the task was made harder. But the Buffaloes never gave in with some strong running from Second Rower Jon Beanland and Prop Tim Orr. With the only points of the half coming from a Forster Penalty, with a try being disallowed and coming close on several occasions.

Coventry rounded off the scoring on the 71st minutes with a converted try to make the scores 32-18.

So, the Black and Amber of Bramley was back in competitive rugby league and can be incredibly proud of their efforts in a first demanding season.  Twenty years later and the Buffaloes go into the new season in confident mood after a championship winning 2023.  


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