Debut: Vs Batley (H) 12th February 1977
Honours: Yorkshire Cup (1980, 1988), John Player Final (Finalist: 1982-83)
Born on 1st March 1958, and given a first-class grounding at both Hunslet Carr Primary and Parkside High, his progression from selection for Hunslet Schools to captaincy of the highly successful Hunslet Under 18s brought a spate of representative honours in its train during 1975-76, B.A.R.L.A. Youth Player of the Year, vice-captain of the Great Britain Youth side that came to grips with France at Villeneuve and captain of Yorkshire against Cumbria and Lancashire.
He could now! Signed by Leeds on 13th April 1976 for £1,800 (a record at the time for a junior player), within a year the 18-year-old was rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Atkinson, Alan Smith, Steve Pitchford, Mick Harrison and David Ward. And was more than ready to prove himself, too, as the Loiners set out to redeem themselves on the 1977 Wembley trail. A confident debut as sub in the 1st Round against Batley at Headingley, in the 2nd row from the start at Barrow, on as sub after just thirty minutes, to share in that gripping 3rd Round win at Workington, yet was soon made aware, perhaps for the first time in his life, of the vagrant breezes of fortune that blow from the windmills of the gods, for even as he fell victim to Cup fever he was selected to play for Great Britain Colts versus France in a curtain-raiser, ironically enough, to the Leeds v St Helens Semi-Final at Central Park. Had the Headingley management applied for his release and included him in their Semi-Final squad, Dave might well have been on the bench against Widnes at Wembley. As it was, he had to make do with ‘Your turn’ll come one day! One day! Not during the next two seasons for sure, injuries restricting him to just nine first-team appearances, with never the remotest possibility of his participating in either that thrilling Wembley victory over St Helens or the comprehensive defeat of Bradford Northern a year later in the Premiership Final. Nevertheless, the defection of stay-away Mick Crane suddenly opened up challenging possibilities, with the No 13 jersey still going begging at the start of 1979-80.
Not that there was any lack of competition, with Phil Cookson the first to stake a claim. Even so, more than happy to slot into the 2nd row vacancy and promptly feature in a Yorkshire Cup Final win over Halifax, by the end of the season Dave was more or less established as last man down. Would that honours had come his way rather more frequently since. True, he has two further Yorkshire Cup winner’s medals to show for 1980 and 1988, in addition to a loser’s from the John Player Final of 1982-83, but not the one he covets most. Never the ‘one day’ one!
And yet, oh so near! How often he must have relived the alternating ecstasy and agony of that traumatic 1982 Semi-Final against Widnes at Station Road, his gleeful swerve past Andy Gregory early in the second half, to put the Loiners five points clear. The powerhouse surge from Les Dyl, to re-establish a 2-point lead, following a couple of tries from John Basnett and then, with Wembley no more than a fluttering heartbeat away, the desperation kick by Mick Adams that rebounded off the crossbar into the hands of O’Loughlin. A cosmic roll of the dice? You could say that, in polite company! Perhaps the gods had relented!
Appointed captain in 1985-86, one can well imagine his mounting optimism as the R.L. Cup campaign developed, Halifax, Doncaster two stamina-sapping 3rd Round tussles that put paid to Widnes ten points ahead as half-time approached in the Elland Road Semi- Final, and Hull Kingston down to twelve men, this was it, surely and then! and then, the cruel transformation, with the jaded Loiners reduced to scrambling a nail-biting draw, and beaten hands down in the replay. Shattered wasn’t the word!
Resilient as ever, however, there he was at Headingley the following March, leading his men from the front as he rose once more to the challenge of the Cup and burned himself out in a titanic 3rd Round encounter with Widnes (who else?). For my part, this was Dave’s finest hour, a thrilling solo try from all of forty yards, to celebrate his 29th birthday, half-breaks galore that fizzled out for want of intelligent support, tackling his heart out and running himself into the ground … but all to no avail, the perennial vision fading in the second half as the Chemics ran out winners by 14 points to 7.
Chosen to represent Yorkshire on six occasions and Great Britain twice (v Australia in 1982), Dave has not always found favour with those long-in the- tooth supporters who look for the guile of a Gallagher, the incisive power of an Owens, the massive authority of a Street, the distributive expertise of a Batten, and the aggression of an Aspinall. Some loose-forward he would be!
Nor do they make allowance for the fact that the game has changed out of all comparison. Suffice it to say that apart from his genuine whole-hearted endeavour and stout tackling, he will long be remembered for his attacking flair and majestic running.