RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (4) – PETER BANNER Pt 3

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (4) – PETER BANNER Pt 3

by | Jan 27, 2020

Part 3 –HE REMEMBERS HIS SALFORD TEAMMATES

Many players, playing in a such a star-studded team as the Reds were in those days, might have been a little daunted, as youngsters having come through the ranks and into the team, but for Peter, having been part of the club for so long, ahead of many of the stars arriving, it was a time of sheer pleasure and excitement.

“Playing alongside all those famous names was absolutely brilliant.  David Watkins once asked me whether I was resentful towards him being paid so much money over and above the amount I was earning, but I really was not. I told him that he won games for us and that that provided extra money for the rest of us, so why would any of us resent him getting his return.

“In reality though, it wasn’t about money; it was a privilege and honour to play alongside someone as talented as he was, and alongside so many, other talented individuals.”

Unsurprisingly, the first player who comes to Peter’s memory was native of St Helens, stand-off half, Kenny Gill.

“Kenny was an absolutely great player, and we had such a strong understanding between us.  He was always especially grateful for the good, quick, early ball I was able to supply him with, because that gave him the time to orchestrate whatever move he had up his sleeve, which was something he said he missed whenever he was playing alongside other scrum halves.

“He really knew his own mind and could, on occasions, be quite outspoken, but he and I got along famously and there was never a cross word between us.

“Whenever, for some reason or other, I couldn’t get the ball out to him, I would have a go taking it up myself, especially if I could do so on the blindside of the scrum.”

As is the case with so many of his teammates, Peter has nothing but praise for the cornerstone of the pack, Colin Dixon.

“Colin and I were really good pals, and he was fantastic to play alongside as was his second-row partner, Mike Coulman.  They were really great guys and wonderful players.  Colin gave me a lot of confidence, personally, because he was always quick to compliment you on things you did.  He always used to say to me, ‘Whatever you do follow me.  Follow me wherever I go, and I’ll make you look good!’  And he did do, on many occasions.  It was so desperately sad about his passing at such an early age.”

The sheer class in the outside backs throughout the whole of the decade was of folklore proportions.

“I always used to feel sorry for poor Maurice Richards on the left wing, because he had the bewildering job of trying to keep alongside Chris Hesketh, his centre.  No-one could ever anticipate where Chris was going to go because he would zig-zag after zig-zag, but it always seemed to work out well for him.  The number of times he opened up defences and laid on tries, either for others or himself, simply by jinking through defences, was unbelievable.

“Maurice himself was a really hard winger.  Alan Smith, the right winger for Leeds, told me that Maurice was the winger he least wanted to come up  against, while John Atkinson, on Leeds’s other flank, said exactly the same thing about Keith Fielding, though with Keith it was his speed which so terrified his opponents.

As things turned out, Peter was to strike up a unique, off-the-field relationship with right centre, David Watkins.

“David was a really nice man, and I actually went to work for him for a while.  He was really quite humorous, too.    He was extremely tough, and he had to be, with the number of opponents who went out to contain him by whatever means.  Not that he particularly looked it because he was so small of physique, but he stood up to everything that was thrown at him and hardly ever missed a game through injury.”

Peter was also fortunate to be in the team at the time when Cumbrian, Paul Charlton, held the fullback role.

“I played a lot with Paul over the years, and he was by far the best fullback I have ever seen; he was incredible.  We now live near each other in Australia.  On the odd occasion people got past him he really didn’t like it, but, really, very few people did manage to, because he could catch anything.

“Lil, his wife, used to tie him to the bumper of their car and then drive down the road with him running behind, and he had to keep up with the speed of the car.  Unbelievable as it sounds that is honestly true.  He was absolutely brilliant as a player though.”

One player Peter makes special mention of, who will be unknown to most fans these days, mainly because, strangely, he played most of his time in the ‘A’ team at a time when the first team was struggling to fill his position of hooker, was Ellis Devlin.

“Ellis was not only a good hooker, but he had a really good rugby brain.   He and I were good friends from our time together in the ‘A’ team, and I would really have liked him to have become our regular first team hooker, though I would never have done anything untoward in that respect.”

“When you look back at that squad, you just go ‘WOW’- it was an incredible team”

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