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Attie Van Heerden
Posted by Bilko on December 03 2008 - 13:45

Position: Winger
Wigan Playing Career: 1923-1927
Wigan Debut: 13th Oct 1923 v Broughton (H - Lancashire Cup R1) - Won 11-6 (Central Park)
Last Wigan Match: 29th January 1927 v Barrow (A) - Won 19-0 (Craven Park)
First Wigan Try: 20th October 1923 v Rochdale (A) - Won 35-0 (Athletic Grounds)
Last Wigan Try: Christmas Day 1926 v Leigh (H) - Won 25-0 (Central Park)

Year by Year Record
Year Appearances Tries Goals Points Honours
1923-1924 37 39 - 117 Challenge Cup (1)
1924-1925 30 29 - 57 -
1925-1926 35 26 - 78 League Champions (1), Lancashire League (1)
1926-1927 25 13 - 39 -
Totals 127 107 - - -
 

Attie Van Heerden was Number 10 in our Top 10 Most Lethal Wigan Try Scorers countdown. This is the article I wrote about him.......

Number 10: Attie Van Heerden - 107 tries in 127 Appearance - Strike Rate 84.2%
Position: Winger
Wigan Playing Career: 1923-1926
Wigan Debut: 13th October 1923 v Broughton (H - Lancashire Cup R1) - Won 11-6 (Central Park)
Last Wigan Match: 29th January 1927 v Barrow (A) - Won 19-0 (Craven Park)

Number 10 in our most lethal Wigan try scorers countdown is South African winger Attie Van Heerden who played for Wigan between 1923 and 1927.

Van Heerden was a star of South African Rugby Union playing for Stellenbosch University before being picked to tour Australia and New Zealand with the Springboks in 1921. He played two tests against the All Blacks, scoring a try.

A year before Attie's arrival at Central Park the RFL had admitted a second Wigan team to the league championship. Wigan Highfield, who played at Tunstall Lane in Pemberton, were known for being a team full of local players where as Wigan became known over time as being the "team of nations". This tag was down to the signing of Attie who made such an impact at Central Park that the club went and searched for more South African talent with David Booysen, George Van Rooyen, Constant Van der Spuy, Carl Burger and Bill Oliver all following him to Central Park. These signings were on top of Welsh talent from that period like Jim Sullivan, Tom Howley and Johnny Ring.

Attie signed for Wigan in October 1923 and made an impressive start with 5 tries in a "A" team match. He soon went into the first team and made his debut in a Lancashire Cup tie at home to Broughton. Wigan won 11-6 but he would have to wait a week before scoring his first try which came in a 35-0 hammering of Rochdale at their Athletic Grounds venue. Little did he know that day that his season would end in great joy at the same venue.

Van Heerden went on to consistently score tries in league games, including four tries in each of the home wins over Hull KR and Hunslet. In the Hunslet match he scored what was one of Central Park's greatest ever tries in which he went the full length of the field and beat half the Hunslet team to score in the process.

His tries help lead Wigan to a top of the table finish come the end of the 1923-24 season. Back then their was a top 4 play off system to crown the League Champions but unfortunately Wigan lost the Championship Final to Batley!

Disappointing as that must have been, it wasn't all bad as Wigan won the Challenge Cup for the first time ever and Attie played a massive part in the triumph. The road to the final began with a local derby against Leigh which was a tight affair but a try from Van Heerden saw Wigan creep through 7-5 at Central Park.

Round 2 was a different story as Wigan cruised to a 49-0 home victory over Broughton in which Van Heerden scored twice. He scored another vital try in the 13-8 Quarter Final away success over Hunslet before two tries from him helped Wigan reach the final in a 30-5 Semi Final win over Salford.

The Final was played in the days before Wembley Stadium and was held at a neutral venue. The venue for this final was Rochdale's Athletic Grounds which is where Attie scored his Wigan first try earlier in the season. Wigan had reached the Cup Final twice before but lost both times so this was a massive match. 40,000 fans had paid to watch the game but many more got in without paying. The crowd was bigger than the ground could hold and thus it spilled onto the pitch with police on horseback struggling to get them back onto the terraces.

For a while it didn't look like the match would kick off but it did just about kick off on time after the players had helped to restore order to the crowd. I say restore order but the crowd was actually stood right on the touchline which made playing conditions very tough. This led to a poor start to the match and it was Oldham who took the lead with a penalty on the quarter hour before Wigan hit back with a unconverted try from Fred Roffey, which gave Wigan a 3-2 lead (it was three points for a try). Then step forward Mr Van Heerden. On the half hour he scored a sensational try in which he had to beat a mounted policeman (who was still on the pitch keeping the crowd off it) to score under the posts. That try gave Wigan an 8-4 half time lead and second half tries from Tom Parker, Jack Price and Johnny Ring saw Wigan eventually win by 21 points to 4. So Attie had played a big part, by scoring in every round, as Wigan lifted the first of our record 17 Challenge Cup successes to date.  He ended the 1923-1924 season with 39 tries from 37 appearances.

Having reached both the Championship and Challenge Cup Finals during his first season, Attie's second year at Central Park was a bit of a disappointment in that respect but he managed to score plenty of tries as Wigan finished 3rd in the table. Notable feats included a hatrick in a 58-0 derby hammering of Wigan Highfield at Central Park, a five try haul in a 63-5 demolition of Salford at The Willows and four tries in the still club record 116-0 Challenge Cup victory over Flimby & Fothergill. He scored 29 tries in 30 appearances but he missed the end of season play off semi final in which Wigan lost away at Hull KR.

So Attie had seen Wigan have two good league campaigns during his time at Central Park but ultimately fail in the play offs. This was put right in 1925-26 as Wigan finished top of the table. Attie again was consistently on the score sheet with 26 tries in 35 appearances which led Wigan to a semi final play off against Hull. Held at Central Park Attie scored a try as Wigan won 34-0 at Central Park.

This set up a Championship Final with Warrington which was held at Knowsley Road. The match was held during a all out miners strike which led to very few trains operating. Seems daft to say it now but back in the days of very few cars, this made it very difficult for Wigan fans to reach Knowsley Road. But somehow a big Wigan contingent managed to make the game, a lot them actually walking! 20,000 was the totally attendance and like in the 1924 Cup Final they went behind to an early penalty goal. But by half time Wigan had control of the game with tries from Tom Howley, Johnny Ring and Van Heerden setting up an 11-2 lead. Attie's try was a supporting role as he backed up a break from fellow South African David Booysen. That break saw him have a clear run to the line.

Warrington came out strong in the second half but Wigan scored first through Tommy Howley. Wire did eventually get over the try line but two further tries from Ring saw Wigan eventually win 22-10 and win their third league championship.

Attie's last season at Central Park saw Wigan finish 3rd but he would not complete the full season. He played his last game on 29th January 1927 which was a 19-0 win away at Barrow. He finished that season with 12 tries in 26 matches and went on to join Leigh ahead of the next season.

In total during his Wigan career he scored 107 tries in 127 appearances. His Wigan career was a brief one but League Championship and Challenge Cup medals showed what a massive impact he made.

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