Joe Flanagan began his long career in rugby league with the St. Anne's School
amateur team which consisted mainly of the school's old boys. Joe was asked down
to Lawkholme for trials and after impressing in a few pre-season games Joe made
his full debut at the start of the 1939-40 season. Before the War coaches were
unknown and the team captain, Norman Foster, organised the training at tactics.
Essential war work prevented Joe from joining the services but this often meant
working long hours and then getting straight down to training or playing at
Keighley. During the War Keighley consisted of a good many guest players from
other teams such as Warrington which had closed down. Jack Miller, Dave Cotton
(father of Rugby Union's Fran), Harry Jones, Fred Higginbottom and Mel DeLloyd
all played for Keighley. It was difficult to know exactly what sort of team was
turning out. Joe played in the Yorkshire Cup Final team who were runners-up to
Bradford Northern in 1943-44 in a two-legged final.
In the 1947-48 season Joe was sold to Leeds for £1,000, a then Keighley record.
During this one season spell at Headingley he was selected to play for
Yorkshire. Unfortunately injury in the Yorkshire Cup Final against Wakefield
Trinity, in which Joe scored a try, meant he couldn't represent his county.
Before the 1948-49 season a new team was starting up at Whitehaven and they
approached Leeds for players getting Joe to join them for their inaugural
season, in fact, by kicking a goal, Joe scored the club's first points.
Travelling to games far up in Cumberland, which often took up three days, proved
an ordeal and so Joe returned to his home town club in 1949 playing four more
seasons at Lawkholme and making a big impact on the team before moving to
Bramley in 1951-52. Joe's record for his second spell at Keighley was: played
46, goals 4, tries 6 making 22 points.
After his playing days were over Joe turned his tremendous experience over to
refereeing at first in the local amateur leagues but then moving on to the
professional game the highlight of which was a match between Wakefield Trinity
and the New Zealand tourists.
Joe continued his long association with rugby league by coaching the Keighley