11th May 2020, 14:46 | therfl
The RFL pays tribute below to a number of former players and to the former Wigan chairman Jack Robinson (pictured) – we send condolences to their families and friends.
Derek Heyes is fondly remembered by Widnes supporters as a diminutive figure who played with skill, determination and versatility in making 167 appearances for the club from 1957-68, scoring 43 tries. The club have been hit especially hard in recent weeks having also lost three of Heyes’s former team-mates – Frank Myler, Bobby Chisnall and Bill Thompson.
Ian Holland played on the wing for five clubs, and was a popular player with supporters and team-mates alike. Originally from St Helens, he played rugby union for Orrell and Lancashire before turning professional with Salford in 1973. His opportunities at the Willows were limited with Keith Fielding and Maurice Richards on the wings, although Holland appeared in the 1973 Lancashire Cup Final defeat by Wigan and Richards was injured.
Holland then had spells with Oldham and Swinton before joining Barrow in November 1976, and although the Cumbrians were relegated in his first season at Craven Park, he helped them bounce straight back in the 1977-78 season when they were promoted from Division Two behind Leigh.
Holland then joined Rochdale Hornets where he settled for a five-year spell to round off his career. Norman Turley was a team-mate, and recalled: “Ian was captain for a time, which was unusual for a winger. He’d come off his wing and say his piece and everyone listened because he was very respected. He knew the game inside out.
“Ian was a good, quick, aggressive winger and a useful stand-in goalkicker, too. He was great for team morale and helped create a great camaraderie which you need in teams when the going gets tough. I saw him playing golf a few years ago and we had a long chat about our happy days at Hornets.”
Duncan Jackson made 122 appearances for Halifax, after being signed from Headingley RUFC in 1959, and his 75 tries included two that contributed to significant successes for the club in consecutive seasons. The wing touched down in their Yorkshire Cup Final win against Featherstone Rovers at Belle Vue in 1963-4, and again in the 15-7 win against St Helens at Station Road, Swinton, in 1965 which earned Fax the title of champions. Jackson also made three appearances for Yorkshire, two of them in their County Championship success of 1962-3.
Stuart Kelley is the third member of Halifax’s successful team of the first half of the 1960s to pass recently, with Duncan Jackson and Jack Scroby. He was a hooker from Shaw Cross who made 144 appearances for the club, scoring 10 tries – and captaining them in the 1969-70 season before moving to Wakefield Trinity. He played in the three victories, over Leeds, Featherstone and Castleford, that secured Fax’s place in the 1965 Championship Final – and was therefore awarded a medal despite missing out on selection for the title-clinching victory over St Helens at Station Road.
Jack Robinson was an important and popular figure in the revival which led to Wigan’s domination of the game for the decade before the onset of the Super League in 1996.
An antique dealer, he was one of the four directors – with Jack Hilton, Maurice Lindsay and Tom Rathbone – who took control of the club after a lean period around 1980. Robinson was a director for 18 years and chairman for the last five, succeeding Lindsay when he joined the RFL.
During that period, Wigan enjoyed eight consecutive triumphs in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley from 1988-95, also winning the league title on eight occasions, and the World Club Challenge on three.
Winston Higham, a current Wigan director, told the Wigan Evening Post that Robinson was “the rugby brain - he was always watching amateur rugby and spending time with scouts looking at players”.
Shaun Wane, the England coach, knew Robinson well as a Wigan player in that era. "He cared deeply for the club and he was a really good fella,” said Wane.
"He was an antique dealer and probably through that, he had this great way of dealing with people - he could talk to anyone.
"He was very passionate about the club and, with the other directors, it was their investment and drive which ultimately made Wigan the force they became. I owe a lot to all of them."
Ian Lenagan, the current Wigan owner and chairman, said: "Whilst I didn’t know Jack personally, it’s clear to me from speaking to Maurice Lindsay and other staff over the past 24-hours that Jack Robinson was a Wigan Rugby League man through-and-through and our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this sad time.
"We thank him for his significant contributions to our great club and we hope his loved ones can find some solace in his evident achievements here at Wigan Rugby League Club.”