|Paul Slattery by Alex Service |
Paul got in touch with the SHS in 2016 and told us that his former club, Western Suburbs Rozellas, in Newcastle, NSW, were having their annual Past and Present Players’ re-union, with Saints’ former Coach, Nathan Brown, as Guest Speaker. Indeed, Nathan himself is one of several links with St. Helens and Wests. Luke Walsh was a Wests’ junior before grading with the Knights, together with the one-and-only Matt Gidley. But as for Paul, he was the first overseas [Australian] player to play for the club after the Saints had visited Australia in 1976, as part of the inaugural World Club Challenge with Sydney Roosters. Paul sent us the image of him signing on at Knowsley Road, together with another Aussie, Greg Smith, from Tamworth. Coach Eric Ashton is seen handing over the coveted jersey.
A good support player, Paul was versatile and could fill several positions on the field with aplomb, but the bulk of his games for the Saints was in the [left] centre. His first match was in Perpignan, a challenge match against Catalans XIII [Champions of France v Champions of England] he made his full debut against Featherstone Rovers four days later, on 14th November 1976, at Knowsley Road. Paul experienced the intensity of a Wigan ‘derby’ match on Boxing Day, when he played centre to Roy Mathias. The Old Enemy won 12-14 that day. Ironically, his last game for the club was also against Wigan, a drawn Premiership trophy match at Knowsley Road. Paul was a regular try-scorer, with 6 in 12 appearances, including a brace in the 49-2 defeat of Leigh.
And so what about Paul’s memories? “Eric [Ashton] was a great bloke and when I first came, we spoke about his memories of playing against tough Newcastle representative sides on his Australian tours”, he recalls. “And when Wests announced that I was selected to play the up-coming English season for Saints, it was a very big deal with Newcastle at the time. Although the Catalans game wasn’t part of the normal competition, it was still my 13th match for the club and Geoff Sutcliffe, the Saints’ Secretary, told me that I qualified for a club blazer, which I subsequently received. The trouble is, I felt cheated in that my long-term hamstring injury prevented me from playing as many games as I would have liked when I came over. I really enjoyed the level of competitiveness, tenacity, flamboyant teamwork, and the skill and drive of all the players I was fortunate to play with”.
Paul’s own Wests club continues to thrive in terms of membership count annual turnover and profit, all from its humble beginnings in Newcastle rugby league as a foundation club in 1910. The Wests’ Annual Past and Present Players re-union in 2016 was a roaring success in front of a packed house. “Nathan Brown spoke very glowingly of his time at Saints”, says Paul. “He also respectfully recognised my contribution as a Saints’ player”. Amen to that!
Special thanks also to Mick McEntyre and Curtis Johnstone for their help with this article.