TRIBUTE TO DAVID WATKINS MBE

Everyone at Salford Red Devils is so greatly saddened at the news of the passing of one of its greatest icons in the history of the club, David Watkins MBE, aged 81.  Frequently as superlatives are often attributed, David fully warranted every single one ever used about him, rising to become a dual international in both rugby league and rugby union.

Heralding from South Wales, he quickly developed, to play 202 top-flight union matches with Newport, going on to gain his first representative honours with Wales, for whom he played on twenty-one occasions, together with a further six for the British Lions, all in his recognised position of fly-half.

His move to join Salford in 1967 absolutely transformed what, at the time, was an up-and-coming team into one of the top sides in the league, certainly in the entertainment stakes, if not in the winning of trophies.  Such was the esteem in which he was held throughout the country that, upon his signing, the attendance of 3,500 at The Willows, for the previous week’s game v Castleford, rose to an incredible 10,500 for his home debut against Oldham, the following Friday, as sports fans travelled from all around the north-west, to witness it, and he did not disappoint, turning in a try-scoring performance after only two training sessions with the team.

Within eighteen months of joining Salford, he was leading the team out at Wembley, as captain, in the 1969 Challenge Cup Final v Castleford, having defeated Batley, Workington Town, Widnes, and Warrington, along the way.  Although the trophy was eventually lifted by their Yorkshire opponents, Salford’s very presence on that great stage was evidence of the significant development, of which David had been a catalyst, within the team, in the interim.

Successes in other finals, such as the Lancashire Cup Final over Swinton in 1972 and the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final replay over Warrington, in 1975, eventually came as some tangible reward.  Sandwiched in between those two was the winning of the club’s first major post-war trophy, the First Division Championship for the 1973/4 season, under his captaincy, which they then repeated two seasons later in 1975/6, after he had relinquished the captaincy to Chris Hesketh, but with his then becoming the league’s leading points scorer for that season.

Such was his talent on a rugby field that it superseded anything required for any one position so that over his ten-year tenure, in 1971 he moved from his initial stand-off half berth to centre, and then in 1974 to fullback.  It was in the centre, however, where he made his greatest contribution, revelling in the greater spaces that the position afforded him, and he repaid the club by notching a total of 30 tries in his very first season, ‘71/2, in that position.

It was in a match against Barrow, in December 1972, that he came on at centre from the substitute’s bench, ten minutes from time, to score the fastest hat-trick of tries – within 5 minutes – in any game, to that time.  His first international representation came against England in November 1968 at The Willows, and he went on to be selected for international duty with Great Britain on 6 occasions, and Wales 16 times, both of whom he later coached.

Individual records needed to be rewritten for him, as one after another was broken.  In the 1972/3, he kicked a world record of 221 goals in a single season and during the period from 19th August 1972 to 25th April 1974, he established the longest running record of scoring in every one of 92 consecutive club matches with 41 tries and 403 goals bringing him 929 points.

In 1979, after making his final appearance for Salford, in an away match at Rochdale Hornets on 1st April, he transferred to Swinton, where he spent a further season, before retiring having amassed a total of 2907 points..  In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to rugby league, and more recently, in December 2022, he was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends at this really sad time.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG – KEN GILL (PT5)

Part 5 – HIS POST SALFORD RUGBY CAREER

The constant demand for him to relocate elsewhere did eventually, in 1978, lead to Ken Gill making the move to up-and-coming Widnes, where he went on to add a further First Division Championship medal to the two he had already won, in 1974 and 1976 with Salford.

“Doug Laughton was playing for them at the time, and he just caught me at the right time, when things at Salford had been a little less settled, and he persuaded me to give it a try at Widnes.  Away from rugby I had got into the pub trade and that was starting to take over a large proportion of my time, whilst bringing in significantly more money than I was getting playing rugby.

“The change was just what I needed at that time, and I went on to have a tremendous, few months with them, and I became the only player in the game then to have won three Championship medals.  Widnes were absolutely made up when we won because they had thought that that would have been much further down the line for them.

“All clubs have their own unique environment, and the fans at Widnes, at that time, were rather harder to please than I had experienced at Salford, but I did eventually win them round, before I left.

“The players, though, just seemed totally mystified by how I managed to make the team function, and some of them even tried copying my tricks, only to find out that there was a whole lot more to it than what they could actually see.”

The missing ingredient, of course, was vision.  Kenny was like a chess player who could see exactly what would happen four moves ahead, but also the execution and timing of every pass was absolutely crucial.

The end of the season, however, brought a most unexpected move to Barrow.

“Bill Oxley was the Chairman, there, and he had a great respect for me and how I performed.  The trouble was that there was virtually no money in the club, and when I got there, I found I was playing for next to nothing.

“I consequently only stayed for a season because it was such a horrible journey to have to make once, let alone on a regular basis.  Not only that, though, being now fully involved in the pub trade was making more and more demands on my time.

“Far from supplementing my income, rugby league was now losing me money because I could earn so much more working.  The pub I was at was a regular for a lot of rugby fans, mainly of Warrington, Widnes, and Saints, but they still wanted to come in and chat with me about rugby league.  Suddenly everyone was wanting to come in for a chat.”

A return to Salford, however, was an opportunity, when it came, he was not going to turn down,

“I thought it would be just like it always had been in my previous time there, but it was not, as I found out once I walked into the dressing room.  It just wasn’t the same, which was really sad, but those earlier good years I had had there by far outweigh everything else I did afterwards.

“I loved the way Salford played and being a part of that, and whenever anyone since then ever asks me which teams I have played for I just reply, ‘Salford’.

“My memories of playing for Salford are ones of absolute joy, and the club owes me nothing.  Indeed, it was a privilege to play for such a highly professional outfit and alongside such talented players, and we all complemented each other so well within the team.

“Certainly, we should have won more trophies than we actually did, and I take some responsibility for that, because there were games when I wasn’t up to my own standard, but that in no way eclipses that wonderful time that we all had together.  There can be very few professional sportsmen who have gained such great pleasure from their career as I did in playing for Salford.”

—–

To read part one click HERE

To read part two click HERE

To read part three click HERE

To read part four click HERE

 

Willows Wall | Kenny Gill joins the Heritage Team

Salford Red Devils’ former stand-off Kenny Gill is the sixth name in the ‘Willows Wall’ as part of Capricorn Security and Salford Red Devils Foundation’s Heritage Team initiative.
Gill was a part of the memorable 1970’s side – of whom make up the complete Heritage Team thus far – that won two Championship titles with the Red Devils. Overall, Gill appeared 275 times for the Red Devils, scoring 62 tries, kicking nine goals and one drop-goal tallying up to an impressive 205 points. He also played in three Lancashire Cup finals, a John Player final and a Floodlit Trophy final.
During his time with Salford, Gill would represent Great Britain on seven occasions and was involved in the 1974 Down Under and was selected in the 1975 and 1977 World Cups, scoring a try in the 1977 Rugby League World Cup final. Gill also played for Lancashire on seven occasions.
Gill would move to Widnes in February 1978 earning another Championship medal before then moving onto Barrow. However, the stand-off would finish his career with Salford after re-joining for £12,000. He would make his final appearance against Leeds at The Willows on April 27th, 1980.
Voting for scrum half will go live later today.
The full results are as follows:

  • Kenny Gill – 32.79%
  • Steve Blakeley – 23.28%
  • Gus Risman – 18.69%
  • Andrew Dunneman – 7.87%
  • Paul Shaw – 6.89%
  • Neil Baker – 4.59%
  • Daniel Holdsworth – 2.95%
  • Ken Richards – 1.64%
  • Cliff Beverley – 1.31%
  • John Butler – 0.00%

If you’d like to get your names alongside a host of Salford Red Devils legends contact John.Blackburn@Salfordreddevils.net and get your name on the ‘Willows Wall’ for £25. 

Salford Red Devils Education Academy U16’s 36-32 Barrow

The very brief period, which constitutes the U16s’ season, got underway on Sunday morning, as part of the Red Devils’ Season Launch, and curtain raiser to the first team home friendly with Swinton Lions, when the Red Group of the squad  (not Black as previously reported) played their part in what proved to be a highly successful day, by starting off with a win.
For Player Development Manager, Danny Barton, this was all most gratifying, as he watched his players earnestly endeavouring to bring the elements, on which they have been working, into a game situation.
“Obviously you don’t expect too much from them in their first game together,” he confides, “ and it did get a bit scrappy at times, but it was really good to see the way the lads turned up for one another, remained positive throughout the game,  and stood shoulder  to shoulder against the opposition.”
A much larger crowd than might otherwise have been expected, including a number who had travelled down from Cumbria, gathered along the touchline and spurred on the players from both sides, in this the first match to be played under the new game structure at this level, which involves four quarters of twenty minutes each, instead of the traditional two halves, and, as might be expected, this had its own impact upon the game.
“It was quite strange, really,” comments Danny, “because it made the game seem longer than normal.  It was probably due to the fact that there are  three stoppages in which to speak to the lads, whereas we are used to having just one.  That is good though, because they get a rest, and you can give more feedback to them.
“ It’s a learning curve for me at the moment though, in knowing just how much information to pass on and how much to hold back for later in the game.  There was definitely evidence that the players  had listened on each occasion, and had then, immediately afterwards, gone about adapting what they had been doing to take account of what they had been told.”
As things panned out, the Red Devils got off to a good start, running in four unconverted tries without reply to put themselves in a fine position to control proceedings from then on.  Goal kicking, however, proved to be rather tricky in the windy conditions, and only two attempts proved to be successful.
“Having access to the whole squad, and the obligation to ensure that every player gets to play, also requires careful management,” Danny considers, “and to a certain extent continuity of play suffers as a result, particularly for the half backs, who crucially have to have a good understanding with each other.”
Having made the journey all the way from Cumbria, the visitors were not going to succumb without a fight, however, and they rallied well in the later stages of the game to pull the score-line back to just four points by the end.
“At this level it is the progress and development of the players which is priority, and we shouldn’t be overly concerned with any of the results,” Danny clarifies.
Next Match (Black Group) at Home, Sunday 28th Jan v Featherstone

Salford Education Academy U16’s part of the 2018 Season Launch

Supporters can watch the Salford Red Devils Education Academy U16’s open their 2018 season on Sunday morning prior to the Swinton game with an 11am kick-off.
The U16’s will open their 2018 campaign at home to Barrow on the outside training pitch in a curtain raiser for the first teams first game of the 2018 against Swinton Lions.
Any fans wishing to attend our 2018 Season Launch before watching the rest of the U16’s game can go outside following the Season Launch and will just need to show their wristband on leaving and re-entering via reception.
Player Development Manager and Education Academy Coach Danny Barton said: “This is going to challenge our thinking on how we do a lot of things.
“It will be a really telling indicator as to how we are doing as a Club at this level but I absolutely believe that we are in a better position this year than we were this time last year irrespective of the changes we are facing from the 2017 competition.”
Our 2018 Season Launch will also take place on Sunday in the 1873 suite from 10:30am.
Tickets for our Season Launch event (including game ticket) are priced as follows:
Adult (Season Ticket Holder): £13
Concession (Season Ticket Holder): £8
Adult (Non-Season Ticket Holders): £15
Concession (Non-Season Ticket Holders): £10
Regular ticket prices for just the game are:
Adult: £10
Concession: £5
 
Tickets for our opening pre-season friendly against Swinton are available at the Club Ticket Office or over the phone on 0161 786 1570.
Also, Season Tickets for our 2018 Super League season are still available at the Club Ticket Office, over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or online here. Remember, if you wish to pay for your 2018 Season Ticket in six monthly Direct Debit instalments you must purchase from the Club Ticket Office or over the phone.

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