200 club – No 22 – Arthur Bunting

Category: Heritage

200 club – No 22 – Arthur Bunting

Arthur Bunting, who was born in Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, in June 1936, signed for Rovers from Bramley in 1959.

Bunting made his debut for the Robins in a 26-16 defeat at Whitehaven on 19 September 1959. He played in the next six games, but in the last of these, the Robins were hammered 44-9 at Wakefield, and he was one of those who lost his place for the next game. For the remainder of that season, and well into the next, Bunting then had to fight it out with Dave Elliott for the number 7 shirt. But after scoring a try in a 19-2 win over Wakefield on 11 March 1961, Bunting held the position for the remainder of the season, and started 1961/62 as the Robin’s first choice scrum-half. After that, Elliott played mainly at off-half outside Bunting, but another threat had arrived in the shape of local man Brian Hatch.

Hatch started the 1962/63 season as the man in possession, and as Rovers started the season with a 14-match winning run, he was difficult to displace. But Hatch was one of several Rovers’ players injured in the Yorkshire Cup final defeat against Hunslet, so two weeks later, Bunting lined up for his first cup final appearance for the Robins – the Eastern Division final against Huddersfield. Rovers’ win that day was their first trophy success for 33 years, and Bunting retained his place for most of the rest of the season. By this time, the arrival on the scene of Alan Burwell increased the competition for half-back places, and in 1963/64, Bunting’s old foe Elliott was preferred at scrum-half on a number of occasions.

That was the season of Rovers’ epic semi-final duel with Oldham, and Bunting played in all three games – scoring the vital first try in the second replay at Huddersfield. That cemented his place in Rovers side for their first Wembley appearance in the final against Widnes. But there was no fairytale ending, as the Robins were clearly second-best on the day.

Bunting continued to be first choice scrum-half in 1964/65, until losing his place after an 18-0 home defeat to Leeds in February, when Colin Cooper got his first run in the position. But Bunting was back by the end of the season, and retained his place for most of 1965/66. Bunting then played in 14 consecutive wins early in the 1966/67 season, alongside the newly-arrived prodigy, Roger Millward. Unfortunately though, he was injured in a 22-8 win at Doncaster in November, and was not able to return until late March. His return coincided with Rovers going on a six-match winning run, culminating in a 36-10 second round Championship play-off win over Swinton. Sadly, Rovers directors, then in charge of team selection, forgot the old adage ‘never change a winning side’ and made one change – dropping Bunting to the bench to bring back Elliott. Bunting was a frustrated spectator as Trinity triumphed 18-6.

After starting 1967/68 as the man in possession again, injury struck again after eight games, and that was effectively the end of Bunting’s first team career at Craven Park. He played only eight more first team games, the last being as an emergency at full-back in a 21-15 defeat at Rochdale on 23 September 1973.

In all, Arthur Bunting made 237 appearances for the Robins, scoring 68 tries and kicking a single goal. He was not the typical ‘cheeky chappy’ scrum-half typical of the era, rather more a sturdy character who was a solid defender; a workmanlike scrum-half who played to his strengths and made very few mistakes. He did not try to be flashy, leaving that side to people like Elliott, Burwell and Millward outside him. He was a very reliable performer who rarely had a bad game.

Moving into coaching, Bunting took over as Rovers’ A team coach in August 1970, and when first team coach Johnny Whiteley left the club in February 1972, Bunting was promoted to replace him. The following season, playing a free-flowing style of rugby, Rovers scored a then club record 954 points. Unfortunately, the team were simply not strong enough to replicate this form the following season, when they were relegated from the newly-reintroduced first division. But with a side strengthened by experienced campaigners Neil Fox, Clive Sullivan, Bernard Watson and Steve Lyons, Bunting led Rovers straight back to the top flight in 1974-75, with several notable cup scalps and a new season record of 1,001 points. Then, to considerable surprise, Bunting resigned from his position in November 1975, just five days before a second successive Yorkshire Cup final appearance, citing undue board interference in team affairs. Saying he had really enjoyed his 16 years at the club, Bunting left to concentrate on his painting and decorating business.

It was to further surprise that Bunting took over as coach of arch-rivals Hull FC in January 1978. In his first full season there, he led them to the division two title, winning every one of their 26 league games in the process. He went on to became Hull FC’s most successful coach, winning seven more major trophies before he finally resigned in December 1985.

Arthur Bunting died in June 2017.

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