The Indomitable Frank Whitcombe

Martin Whitcombe writes about his book published in May, 2016 which will be of interest to all Rugby League followers, particularly Bradford Northern / Bulls supporters…


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.


1946 1st Test Sydney England v Australia Tour captain Gus Risman (Salford)  leads the team on to the field at the Sydney cricket ground followed by Tommy McCue (Widnes) and Frank Whitcombe (Bradford Northern)

Reviews of the book have been very positive…

‘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

‘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

‘Frank Whitcombe was a rugby league cult hero in the days before there were cult heroes. An eighteen-stone battle tank of a prop forward, he graduated from Welsh rugby union to become a pillar of the great Bradford pack of the 1940s. In the process, he became the first forward to win the Lance Todd Trophy, a member of the 1946 Indomitable Lions touring team to Australasia and had even driven the team bus to Wembley when Bradford won the 1947 Challenge Cup Final. This book is his story – it is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of rugby and the amazing men who made the game.’
Prof. Tony Collins, De Montfort University, author of ‘The Oval World’.

2015-07-29 16.52.26.jpg
Roll out the barrel, Frank Whitcombe in his cellar at  the Hallfield Hotel,  a Melbourne Breweries Ale House on Trafalgar Street, Bradford
17th January 1948, Central Park Wigan: Wigan 14 7 Bradford Northern. Wigan forward Ken Gee standing over the tackler and Billy Blan are watched closely by Bradford Northern players R-L Frank Whitcombe, Trevor Foster and Herbert Smith  


About the Author
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.

The book is published by St David’s Press Cardiff and is available direct from them at £19.99 or Amazon, Waterstones on line, Bradford and Cardiff Waterstones stores.


Welsh prop forwards Fred Hughes (Workington) and Frank Whitcombe (Bradford Northern) Fred was Emlyns Dad, the Liverpool FC and England football captain

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