RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (8) – PAUL CHARLTON (PT 3)

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (8) – PAUL CHARLTON (PT 3)

by | Dec 28, 2021

Part 3 –HIS INTERNATIONAL CAREER

The absolute highlight of Paul’s career came with his elevation to the international stage, with Great Britain.  The first of these occasions came when they faced New Zealand, at Bradford, in the second test of the 1965, three-test series.  At the time, the fullback position was securely in the hands of, then, Swinton fullback, Kenny Gowers, but he had been injured, and so Paul was brought in to replace him for that one test match, which Great Britain won 15-9.

Gowers was fit enough to return for the third test, and Paul then had to wait until he had joined Salford before he was recalled for the 1970 World Cup, and, even then, it was in something of a peripheral role, with Widnes’s, Ray Dutton, holding down the fullback slot for the majority of the games, probably for his additional ability to kick goals, in which he was prolific.

“I was included in the squad for the tournament, but I didn’t play in it, very much.  The one match I did get on for was against New Zealand, at Station Rd, Swinton, which we won.”

The whole competition was based on a league basis, in which the four competing countries played each of the others, with the two top teams proceeding to the final, at Headingley.

“It was most beneficial to me because it gave me a foretaste of the whole international environment, ahead of my full involvement in the 1972 World Cup held in France.  The progress I had made, in just a few years, was quite considerable, but the opportunity I got this time was due to having been at Salford.

“It just showed what a good move it had been for me to have gone there, because without that, I’m pretty sure I would have been in and out of the international side, again and again.”

With a fair proportion of the GB squad for that 1972 World Cup tournament being made up of Salford players, particularly in the backline, having Paul as one of them made the utmost sense, when they all had such an in-depth understanding of one another, and each individual’s strengths.

“I’d really got to know, by this time, how each of them worked as individuals, and as a group, on the field.  Had I been coming in from another club it would have been quite a steep learning curve for me.

“Another thing which is of great importance is getting on well with your teammates.  Having a good camaraderie with them is essential, because it does so much to building up the team spirit, and we at Salford had an absolutely tremendous one.  We all knew that we could rely on one another.

“We got to the final, where we had to play Australia, again, having won all of our qualifying games, including the one against them, 27-21.  The final ended in a 10-10 draw, but because we had the better scoring average overall, we were crowned winners.   I personally think that that was a little unfair, and I do believe that the game should have been replayed, as would have happened with any other drawn final, in those days.

“I can clearly remember the occasion to this day.  I remember coming out of the changing-room, totally unaware as to just how big these Aussies were, until we all lined up alongside each other to go out onto the field and I found myself standing next to Artie Beetson.  He was head and shoulders above me, and something like ten stone heavier.  Over the years, I got to know him quite well, and, believe me, he was an absolute gentleman.”

Paul had now become firmly established as first choice fullback for the international side, with his next being included in the 1974 Great Britain tour of Australia.

“We flew into Cairns for the first of our tour games, and then, by means of planes and coaches we travelled down the east coast, calling off at venues such as Rockhampton, and quite a number of outback settlements.  Wherever we went, the receptions we got from the local inhabitants was absolutely fantastic.  Eventually we arrived in Brisbane, where we played the first test at Lang Park, which, unfortunately, we lost 12-6.

“From there we set off on our way down to Sydney, in a similar mix of road and air travel.  What also was exactly the same was the tremendous, friendly, welcome we received, wherever we stopped off.  I was absolutely taken with the beautiful country we travelled through. I can remember thinking that I would love, one day, to come to live there and that I must bring my wife to see it for herself to see whether she felt so too.

“The second test was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and after the defeat in Brisbane, one or two selection changes were made, with Kenny Gill being brought in, to partner Stevie Nash, and Roger Milward moving onto the wing.  This did the trick, and we went on to win 11-16.

“Sydney Cricket Ground was also the venue for the third test, but the result that afternoon went 22-18 in favour of the Australians, after which we flew to New Zealand, where we won two of the four fixtures, but the test match there, at Carlaw Park, Auckland, was one of the pair we lost, in this case by 13-8.

After an international career, which earned him a total of twenty international caps, his last representative honour came when he became a member of the newly formed England side, which played their first match against France, in February, once again at Headingley, where they got off to a winning start, ahead of the imminent World Cup tournament, later that year.

“That game proved to be my last international game because George Fairbairn had been being groomed for the position for a while, and they made the decision to go with him, thereafter.”

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