Part 1 His Early Rugby Career
Wonderful as the team of the 1970s was, with star players and internationals throughout the whole team, the one position which never appeared to get the consistency, so prevalent throughout the rest of the side, was that of hooker. Over the whole period, following the departure of Martin Dickens, in 1970, the vacancy he left was filled by a number of high-profile replacements, who, for a wide variety of reasons, terminated their period of time here considerably earlier than had been anticipated.
This was somewhat surprising to the many who knew of him, because the club had a readymade hooker already on their books, Ellis Devlin, whose time at The Willows, predominantly in the ‘A’ team, spanned that of a number of people who held the number nine jersey for the first team.
Ellis nevertheless managed to build up a total of eighty-eight first team appearances, ten of which were as substitute, over a seven-season career with the club, and scoring sixteen tries, which was a most notable accomplishment for a hooker in those days.
Brought up in St Helens, Ellis first started playing rugby at St Cuthbert’s School from where he was selected to play for the town team, in the role of hooker.
“I started playing for the school at the age of eleven, and I represented the town up to the age of fifteen. When I left school at the age of fifteen, one of my teachers took me to West Park Rugby Union Club, where I played in the Colts side. I started off still playing at hooker, but after a while was moved to wing-forward for a time, before reverting back to hooking.
“During my seven years there, I was invited to play trials for Lancashire at union, and was immediately selected to play in the next game, but on the evening before, I had a phone call telling me that someone else had become available and I was no longer required, which was really upsetting and quite discouraging.
“I was fortunate however, in that Don Gullett, the coach at West Park, was also involved with Widnes RLFC, and he invited me to go there, and, by then, at the age of twenty-two, undertake trials with them. The first game I played in was against Saford, at The Willows, and immediately after the game I was approached by a Salford scout, Albert White, inviting me to come down to Salford, which I readily accepted.
“You only had to look around at the setup, in general, to know that this was the place to be.”