21 Jun 2020

Debbie Nokes: A Born Leader

The club is saddened to hear of the passing of Debbie Nokes (left), the first ever captain of the first ever women’s rugby team, Rochdale Ravens, in the Rochdale Borough

Debbie followed in her brother's footsteps, "Andy Nocker Nokes" - Mayfield's legendary prop-forward. 

In 1987, Rochdale Ravens was established, the first woman's rugby league team in Rochdale.

A bunch of girls came together who had never played the game before. Within this bunch of girls, there was one girl who stood out above all others.

Debbie Nokes was that girl. A figure head that led from the front, a born leader on and off the pitch.

She, like the rest of the girls, had never played the game before, but she above all others, took to it as a duck to water.

From the first training camp, she was the pillar of the team, giving encouragement to the younger players and a mother figure off the pitch.

Everyone loved Debbie and always went to Debbie if they had any problems, especially boyfriend trouble. 

She was the one that nurtured the team and led from the front.

When making the decision on captaincy,  there was only one person who fitted the bill...Debbie was that girl.

In the early days games were hard, as the team lined up against established teams. Nevertheless, the team and Debbie never took a backward step and gave their all until the final whistle.

The word soon got round the league,that Rochdale had a super star in their mist.

Not being phased by opponents pin pointing her, she grew in stature and gave as good as she got. Not bothered for a a bit of fisty-cuffs and usually came off the best.

She was soon recognised for her potential, being selected to play for Lancashire at Old Trafford against Yorkshire before the old Premiership Finals. She scored a great try, too.

Off the field, you could always hear Debbie's shouting and screaming on the terraces watching Mayfield every Saturday afternoon. 

She will be sadly missed in the Rugby Community, but leaves a legacy of a woman who would never take a backward step and was mother figure to lots of players.

RIP.

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