RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 12 – ELLIS DEVLIN PT 1

Pt 1  His Early Rugby Career

Part 2  His Memories Of Playing At Salford

Part 3  He Remembers Some Of His Former Teammates

Part 4  His Experiences Of Playing In France & Return To Salford

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.”

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (10) – KEN GILL

Salford’s Former International Stand Off, Kenny Gill, Looks Back On His Rugby League Playing Career

CONTENTS

Part 1 – HIS EARLY PLAYING CAREER

Part 2 – HIS MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

Part 3 – HE REMEMBERS SOME OF HIS FORMER SALFORD TEAMMATES

Part 4 – HIS INTERNATIONAL CAREER

Part 5 – HIS POST SALFORD RUGBY CAREER 

 

Part 1 – HIS EARLY PLAYING CAREER

In a team which included so many stars, many of whom had taken the perilous step of breaking away from their former rugby union careers and others who had already made their names in rugby league, there were a mere few, who came as unknowns, but who still managed to stake a claim for a place, with some regularity, in the Salford first team.

Household names most of the side definitely were, but among them was this small smattering of players who had come to the club with little or nothing other than their raw talent to boast.  One such was Kenny Gill, a young staff-off half, from St Helens, who was eventually destined to rise to become not only the lynchpin of the high-flying Reds at their absolute peak, but also of the international team of the time, whether it was for England or Gt Britain.

Born and brought up in St Helens, from the tender age of seven Ken spent much of his time watching the marvellous Saints side of the late fifties and early sixties.

“I was one of a gang of lads who regularly attended their home games, and players like Tom Van Vollenhoven were my absolute heroes.”

Other than playing with his friends in the street, Ken first started playing rugby at Rivington Rd Secondary School, which had previously produced a considerable number of former professionals.  By the time he had moved up to the third year he had been made captain of the school team, which led, eventually, to his joining West Park Rugby Union Club, to play in their Colts side.

“It was a really good place to develop your game, because there were no leagues to compete in; you just went out, without any pressure at all, to enjoy yourself.  There were some really good players there, some of whom I thought were better than me.  Peter Frodsham, who later joined me at Salford, was among those, as was hooker, Ellis Devlin.

“From the Colts I progressed into the first team, but, from there, changed to rugby league by joining St Helens Recs,  which was where I resurrected my league career, at stand-off half.”

It was not long before his prowess in that, which was to become his favourite position, gained him his first representative honours by being selected, age twenty, not only to play for, but to captain Gt Britain Amateur team, in a game at The Willows.

“After the match, Salford’s ‘A’ team coach, Ken Roberts, came over to me to invite me to come down and meet the club Chairman, Brian Snape, which I did, and from that, I ended up signing for the Red Devils, just a few months after they had played in their 1969 Wembley Challenge Cup Final appearance, to go on to spend ten super years with them.”

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