The Indomitable Frank Whitcombe

978 1 902719 474
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We both played for Cardiff RFC and for Bradford Northern RLFC; we both played at Wembley in Challenge Cup finals; and we both played for Wales and Great Britain. We were both prop forwards and when our playing careers were over we both went into the licensed trade. I am so proud to have walked the same path as this wonderful man did. 
Jim Mills, Cardiff RFC, Bradford Northern, Wales & Great Britain, from the Foreword

Frank Whitcombe became a Welsh international and a Great Britain tourist. He is widely regarded as an all-time great of rugby league. Dad always enthused, not only about his scrummaging and play in the loose; but that he was very light on his feet for a huge man, a surprisingly good place kicker and an excellent tactical kicker of the ball.  This was unheard of back then and even now it is rare to see such skills from a prop forward. 
Fran Cotton, Sale, England and British Lions, from the Preface


Foreword by Jim Mills
Preface by Fran Cotton

1. A Family at Play           
2. Army Games   
3. A Broughton Ranger    
4. Wearing the Three Feathers
5. Enter Harry Hornby    
6. Odsal Here we Come
War-time Glory and Gloom             
8. Building the Dream      
9. Rising to the Challenge             
10. Winning the Peace       
11. The Indomitables Depart             
12. Across Australia          
13. Let the Action Commence
14. The First Test
15. The Ashes Retained
16. Mud-baths in New Zealand

17. Back to Bradford
18. Hard Men
19. The Road to Wembley
20. The Lance Todd Hero
21. Bowing out
22. Goodbye to a Rugby Giant
23. The Dynasty Goes on…

Appendix 1:
The Rugby Career of Frank Whitcombe

Appendix 2:
The Official Rugby League Report of the 1946 Great Britain tour of Australia & New Zealand

Frank Whitcombe, described as 'one of the greatest Welsh rugby league forwards of all time', played for Bradford Northern, Wales, and Great Britain. Adored by Bradford supporters and admired by the rugby league fraternity, such was his prowess that he was named in the Bradford Northern all-time greats team.

The Indomitable Frank Whitcombe, lovingly tells the incredible story of a rugby league legend who was born and raised, as one of ten children in Grangetown, the heart of working-class Cardiff. 

Frank’s rugby career, after a brief and successful spell as a boxer, began in rugby union, when he played for the British Army and London Welsh, as a  deceptively nimble and skilful 18 stone forward. His talents were quickly spotted by rugby league scouts, and Frank was persuaded to ‘go north’ for £100 and two new suits, although the cost of buying himself out of the Army left him just £10, and the suits!

Frank was made for rugby league and he enjoyed a glittering career in professional rugby, winning the RL Challenge Cup three times, the RL Championship three times and was capped 14 times by Wales.

He quickly created a big impression on the Great Britain selectors and he was chosen for the famous 1946 ‘Indomitables’ tour of Australia. Frank excelled as the tourists made history and won plaudits from antipodean fans and media alike as the team became the first, and to date only GB tourists, to win a rugby league Test Series, undefeated, ‘down under’.

After 331 games, Frank bowed-out of rugby with Bradford Northern, four days after playing in a Challenge Cup final at Wembley, in his last match at Odsal; a game which attracted 19,000 fans. He then turned to life as an RL administrator and publican before his life was tragically cut short by pneumonia at the age of only 44. 

Frank was a true giant of rugby league and this is the first book to tell his remarkable story.

Martin Whitcombe is Frank’s grandson, who also enjoyed a successful rugby (union)   career with Leicester Tigers, and England B. Today he  lives in West Yorkshire and is a keen follower of both rugby union & rugby league.

Bill Bridge is a retired journalist who was Sports Editor of the Yorkshire Post for almost 30 years and wrote about rugby union for 25 years. He met the Whitcombe family whilst   working for the Keighley News and remains a family friend.  

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