RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT

Salford’s Former International Loose Forward, Eric Prescott, Looks Back On His Rugby League Career

CONTENTS

Part 1 – HIS EARLY RUGBY CAREER

Part 2 – MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

Part 3 – HE REMEMBERS SOME OF HIS FORMER SALFORD TEAMMATES

Part 4 – HIS POST SALFORD RUGBY CAREER

Part 5 – THE PROUD FATHER OF STEVE PRESCOTT MBE

                                                                                                                                

Part 1 – HIS EARLY RUGBY CAREER

Although not the only Salford player of that era to have done likewise, both former loose forward, Eric Prescott, and Salford RLFC, had such a high regard for each other, that he not only had one lengthy spell at the club, as their first choice loose forward, from 1972 to 1980, he also returned in 1983 for a further season.

For those of us who might automatically, and understandably, associate him with St Helens, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that he was born, and grew up, in neighbouring Widnes, where he developed a love for the game watching the Chemics, as his home-town team were affectionately known.

“I remember watching the famous Frank Myler, starring in the centre, and then, in later years, I had the great privilege of playing alongside him when we were both at St Helens.  Bobby Chisnall had been his winger, and the pair of them were my boyhood idols.

“It was around that time that Alex Murphy, who I think was the best ever player, was playing scrum-half for St Helens, and then I later played under him, when he became coach at Salford.”

Despite the lure that rugby league had to him in such a stronghold as Widnes, it was at football that Eric initially was drawn towards.

“I was a goalkeeper in soccer for most of my childhood and early teenage years, but then, at the age of fifteen, I went with a friend to take up an apprenticeship at our local rugby union club, Widnes ICI, and although that led to my change from football to rugby, it was to rugby union.  I played either fly-half or fullback in the Colts team.”

Things looked as though they were about to change, however, when St Helens invited him down for trials.

“I played a couple of trial games, at stand-off, but nothing came of it so I decided to go back to playing union – only I couldn’t.  I had now played rugby league at a professional level, so there was no way for me to go back to union.  Fortunately, St Helens came back to me with an offer of a further few trial games, so of course I took them.

“I played three games in all, with their ‘A’ team, but, yet again, nothing seemed to be forthcoming, and it was only thanks to Tony Karalius, who used to give me lift to training, going to the secretary and persuading them, that they agreed to sign me, at the age of eighteen.  The ‘A’ team at the time included Billy Sheffield (Quality St Gang No 7), and Alan Bishop, brother of Tommy.

Much to his surprise, for his first match as a professional, he was selected on the wing.

“I signed for them in 1967, and played my first match as a professional, again in the ‘A’ team.  I would have preferred to have played at centre, which I had quite come to like but I just had to take my chance, which I did, and the following week I was promoted to the first team.

“My first match was against Swinton, who were a good team in those days, having twice been League Champions three or four years earlier.  I started on the bench and came on, to replace the famous Graham Rees, who had previously played for Salford.”

The St Helens side at that time, rather like today, was full of rugby league stars.

“I had the privilege of playing amongst the likes of Les Jones, Cliff Watson, Phil Sayer, and Geoff Pimblett.  During my time with them, we won six trophies, including the League Championship, Lancashire Cup, and Challenge Cup, which should have been particularly special for me, because all I had ever wanted to do was to play at Wembley.”

Sadly, that opportunity failed to materialise, as he picked up a shoulder injury, in the end-of-season play-off semi-final, the week before.

“All week I was desperate for my shoulder to be right.  I even had my name in the programme, but in the end I had to stand down.”

With five seasons in which to enjoy the numerous successes which came their way, there was one which stands out in his memory.

“We were playing Leeds in the League Championship Final, at Bradford, and I scored two tries and also won my first medal.  I played in my usual position, on the left wing, and the ball just came my way, with two chances which I finished off with tries.”

Successful as he was, as a winger, a move into the forwards came in 1969.

“I had put a bit more weight on by then, and it was the logical move to make at that time.”

It was a move that was to have significant impact on his career, three seasons later, when Salford suddenly took note on his considerable attributes in that position.

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