It is with great sadness that we pay this tribute to our former utility back, David Fell, following a tragic accident, on Friday 23rd July, at the cruelly early age of fifty-five.
David was born on the 25th April 1966, and hailed from Wigan. His early playing days were in rugby union with Orrell, through whose youth ranks he progressed before being signed by Salford, on a five-year contract, in October 1989, aged 23.
His first team debut came a few weeks later, on November 12th, when he turned out in the centre to face Leeds, at The Willows, where the visitors ran out winners with the final score of 18-38.
He became a regular in the side over the next couple of seasons, with his ability to play in most positions in the back line, but particularly as an inside back at centre or stand-off. In the sixty-one games in which he started, eight were at fullback, 24 were in the centre, 19 were as stand-off half, and 10 saw him at scrum-half. He also came off the bench, as substitute, for a further 12 games.
One of his great assets as a player, was his ability to anticipate opportunities for scoring tries, which he exploited by following his forwards around the field, accruing a total of 29 of them, and a points haul of 116. The 1990/91 season was undoubtedly his best in which he played 38 games and helped the team become Second Division Champions.
The highlight of his time at Salford came in that same season in the final of the Lancashire Cup, against Widnes, at Central Park, Wigan. Having dominated the game throughout, as a result of David’s and scrum-half, Steve Kerry’s half-back partnership, Salford’s hearts were broken in the last two minutes by a converted Widnes try, which won them the trophy. David, nevertheless, was most deservedly awarded Man of the Match for his highly impressive performance.
A change of coach at the start of the 1993 season saw a change in his fortunes with the club, and he transferred to Rochdale Hornets, mid-way through the season, in January 1994, before moving on, two years later to join Chorley Borough, in December 1995 for the truncated season ahead of the change to summer rugby.
Salford director of rugby & operations, Ian Blease, had the pleasure and privilege of playing alongside David at Salford, and he had this to say: “David was a great guy, and a really talented rugby player. He was one of a group of highly talented rugby union converts from Orrell, including Peter Williams and John Gilfillan, who all signed at pretty much the same time as each other and did much to boost the team here at Salford.
“David was the sort of person who fitted in so well with the group of players here, and we all became an especially close-knit team, so much so that we have kept in touch with one another over the years, and more recently have had our own WhatsApp group, of which David was an instrumental part.
“The news, this weekend, has had that WhatsApp group operating flat out, so great was the respect that we had for him as a person and a player. All of us are absolutely devastated about the news and what has happened to our friend and former teammate. Steve Gibson, in Australia, for example, was up throughout the night, expressing his grief.
“Our grief, we realise however, is nothing like that which his family must be going through, and we want them to know that they are in the thoughts of everyone here at Salford, and our sympathy and condolences go out to them, especially.”