Super League at 25: The home grounds from the first season

We take a trip down memory lane and look at the grounds which played host to the first season of Super League in 1996, many of which are no longer in use…

Odsal (Bradford Bulls)

The Bulls, now a Championship club, were still playing at Odsal up until the end of last season before departing the city to groundshare with Dewsbury Rams 11 miles away.

Five-figure crowds regularly packed the large bank of terraces at the ground as the Bulls established themselves as one of the premier teams during the late 1990s and early 2000s in Super League.

Odsal holds a special place in rugby league history too, with a then-world-record crowd of 102,569 in attendance to watch the 1954 Challenge Cup final replay between Warrington and Halifax.

Wheldon Road (Castleford Tigers)

One of only two grounds still remaining in Super League from that first season, the venue now known at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle has been host to Castleford since 1927.

Very little has changed at the ground during the past 25 seasons and it remains one of the few traditional stadiums in the competition.

Although the Tigers have long-term plans to move to a new ground, those have yet to come to fruition and they will be at Wheldon Road for the foreseeable future.

Thrum Hall (Halifax Blue Sox)

The ground of another team now in the Championship, Thrum Hall opened in 1886 and was home to Halifax for nearly 112 years.

The record attendance of nearly 30,000 came during a third-round Challenge Cup tie against Wigan in 1959, but by the time Super League started the capacity had been capped at just over 9,000.

An Asda supermarket now stands on the site of Thrum Hall, while Halifax share The Shay with the town’s football team.

Headingley (Leeds)

Along with Wheldon Road, the only ground still in use from the first season of Super League – albeit virtually unrecognisable from 1996 following extensive redevelopment.

The Leeds team of that era was in a much different state to the present-day Rhinos both on and off the field, having not tasted success for many years.

Indeed, the Western Terrace is the only part of the ground which remains virtually unchanged from 25 seasons ago following the completion of the new South Stand.

The Valley (London Broncos)

The Broncos currently call Trailfinders Sports Club in Ealing their home, but in 1996 were playing in the south east of the capital at The Valley.

The home of Charlton Athletic had undergone extensive redevelopment work during the early 1990s to make it into a modern sporting arena and the Broncos joined them as tenants for the first season of Super League.

Their first Super League match there saw 9,638 fans watch them defeat Paris Saint-Germain 38-22, but would eventually leave at the end of the season for The Stoop.

Watersheddings and Boundary Park (Oldham Bears)

Oldham, promoted from League One to the Championship for 2020, have endured something of a nomadic existence in recent years and are currently back sharing Bower Fold with Stalybridge Celtic.

Their first year of Super League saw them playing at the ground which they called home from 1889 to 1997 though, with a housing development now standing on the site of Watersheddings.

The Bears played three fixtures at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park (pictured) – which they would eventually end up sharing on a long-term basis – during the first season of Super League as well, including their opening match against Wigan.

Stade Charlety (Paris Saint-Germain)

The multi-purpose venue in Paris is still in use to this day, but is more widely recognised for athletics and the home of lower-division football club Paris FC.

It has gone down in history as the venue for the first-ever Super League match in which newcomers Paris Saint-Germain defeated Sheffield Eagles 30-24.

Stade Charlety has played host to Rugby League World Cup and international matches too, the last of those coming in 2009 when France lost 42-4 to Australia in that year’s Four Nations tournament.

Don Valley Stadium (Sheffield Eagles)

The 25,000-capacity athletics stadium was built in 1990 and became home to Sheffield’s rugby league team the following year after they left Owlerton Stadium.

The Eagles spent their entire time in Super League at the Don Valley and were tenants until it closed at the end of the 2013 season, barring a two-year period at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.

Although the Don Valley Stadium has since been demolished, Sheffield are back at the site playing out of the Olympic Legacy Park ground which was constructed there.

Knowsley Road (St Helens)

One of the traditional homes of rugby league, Knowsley Road eventually closed in 2010 after playing host to St Helens for around 120 years.

The Super League attendance record at the ground was set during the first season of the competition when 18,098 watched Saints clinch the title with a 66-14 win over Warrington.

It was the venue for one of the most iconic moments in Super League history too when St Helens defeated Bradford Bulls in the 2000 play-offs with the ‘Wide to West’ try.

Wilderspool (Warrington Wolves)

Built in 1881, Wilderspool was home to Warrington for the first eight seasons of Super League before they moved to the Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2004.

One of the more unusual features of the ground was the snooker social club which ran down one of the touchlines.

Even after the Wolves left, it continued to be used by one of the town’s amateur clubs and was not demolished until 2014.

Central Park (Wigan)

The home of Wigan from 1904 to the end of the 1999 season, when the Cherry and Whites moved to what is now the DW Stadium, is now the site of a Tesco supermarket.

Along with playing host to some memorable moments for the club, Central Park was also the site of some important moments in rugby league history.

The first-ever international match between England and Other Nationalities was played there in 1904, as was the first official World Club Challenge in 1987 when Wigan beat Manly 8-2.

Derwent Park (Workington Town)

Workington remain the only Cumbrian club to have graced Super League, being part of the inaugural season in 1996 but suffering relegation at the end of the campaign.

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