When 'Big Den' got the GB call

Posted: Sunday 24th November 2019 - 11:56 AM

My July notes recorded Castleford’s progress from the 1950’s and how I thought the 1963 victory against Australia signaled that Cas had arrived on the bigger platform and the following seasons saw the team winning the Yorkshire League and three Floodlit trophies. However, the side sadly missed out when the major trophies were up for grabs despite playing exciting rugby, perhaps because they were missing a bit of firepower when the going got tough.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man with Dennis Hartley arriving at Wheldon Road from Hunslet in 1966.

What followed saw Castleford become a top draw side and successive wins at Wembley were to follow Big Den’s arrival. 1970 proved to be an unforgettable year following a second Challenge Cup final victory over Wigan, Dennis with teammates; Derek Edwards, Alan Hardisty, Keith Hepworth & Malcolm Reilly headed down under to face the Aussies with the Great Britain side. The Lions lost the first test with the pack like Cas in earlier seasons, short of firepower, which saw Dennis get the call for the second and third tests meaning he joined the Cas boys in the lineup with Heppy at scrum-half and Malcolm at loose-forward. The GB side won the following two tests and the Ashes returned to our shores.

I am very proud to have known Dennis Hartley and I am saddened by his passing, my condolences to his wife Jackie and all his family.

Rest in peace big fella.

Geoff Smith
Castleford Rugby League Players Association



Dennis will be laid to rest on Thursday, November 28th at Pontefract Crematorium at 3pm, ahead of the service the funeral procession will pass through the Mend-A-Hose Jungle at 2.15pm. Supporters are invited to come to the stadium to pay their respects to a terrific servant of the club on his final visit to Wheldon Road. There will be a guard of honour for Dennis at the ground with former Fords players lining up on the concourse to pay tribute. Fans wishing to attend are asked to arrive ahead of the procession’s arrival at 2.15pm.

The service will then be conducted at 3pm at Pontefract Crematorium, followed by an evening celebration of Dennis’ life taking place at Roundhill Club.


  • The Mend-A-Hose Jungle, Wheldon Road, Castleford, West Yorkshire, WF10 2SD
  • Pontefract Crematorium Wakefield Road WF8 4HA
  • Roundhill Working Mens Recreation Club, Roundhill Road, Castleford, West Yorkshire, WF10 5AE

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