|Wilf was signed from local amateur side Pilkington Recs and played mostly in the centres for the Saints. He came into the first team for six matches at the end of the 1950/51 season as left centre to wingman world record signing Stan MCormick. A nippy athletic rugby player he possessed excellent distribution qualities and a sound defence. Wilf was in the dressing room as Jim Sullivan began his reign at the Saints and was at the start of the Golden Era for the Knowsley Road club which lasted for the next sixty years. |
Wilf also notched a commendable number of tries for the Saints including two braces in wins over Huddersfield and Belle Vue Rangers. His name was added to hat trick heroes for the Saints in September 1953 as he notched up three tries in the home league trouncing of Bramley.
Wilf even crossed the tryline in his last match for the club in a 14 points to 3 victory at Halifax later the same month. At the time the Saints had real depth in the threequarters with centres such as Greenall, Gullick, Howard, Finnan and Wilf on the books. Competition for a first team berth was high and eventually Wilf moved on to Rochdale Hornets where he could cement a regular starting spot.
An updated biography
Wilf played in 37 matches overall for the seniors with the Knowsley Road club, scoring 13 tries and was a popular figure amongst the fans on the terraces. He was also a valued squad member too. Wilf made an impressive debut against Leeds on 4th April 1951, but only found out he was playing by looking at a team-sheet displayed in his local chippie in Doulton Street!
Wilf was, in fact, the perfect utility player, who could play centre or wing when required. He could tackle his opposite number hard and score tries given the opportunity the ideal squad player, they would say today. “I began with the amateurs Pilks Recs,” he remembered. “At one stage Leeds showed interest, but Saints got wind and being a local lad, there was only one club for me and what’s more, I didn’t have a car!” Wilf originally lived in Doulton Street and went to Knowsley Road juniors and Rivington Road with Saints’ Chairman Harry Cook as Headmaster. He won the Ellison Cup at ‘Rivvy’ and soon became a valued member of a Saints’ squad that made a serious bid for honours during the 1952-53 season. “You could say I was the ‘third man’ with Duggie Greenall and Don Gullick the first choice centres,” he added, “but they were great times. I remember we became the only club side to beat the Australian tourists [26-8] and my fellow centre that day, Duggie, had a blinder!” He also neglected to say that the man outside him, Stan McCormick scored twice in the rout.
The team went on to top the league and remain unbeaten away from home, with a draw at Huddersfield the closest thing to defeat [Wilf scored Saints’ only try that day]. It was one of Wilf’s 15 appearances during the season. “The signing of Glyn Moses was a real bonus for us and gave us another attacking dimension and we were worthy Champions at the end of the season,” he maintained. The following year, with competition at Knowsley Road as intense as ever, Wilf joined Rochdale Hornets, where he starred in the same threequarter line as the Australian Wally McArthur and by his own admission it was always nice to get a result against his former team, albeit rarely!
A true gentleman, Wilf worked at Foster’s Glass before joining the Army and going on to work at Fibreglass. On his retirement, he enjoyed life at home in Eccleston, retaining a keen interest in sport and Saintly matters in particular. Yet the memories of his time at Knowsley Road and playing in front of invariably huge crowds, in the Jim Sullivan era, are those he always cherished. Wilf passed away at the age of 85 in November 2015.