26th January 2020, 15:00 | great_britain
Eleven members of the last Great Britain team to win the Rugby League Ashes were reunited at a memorable and emotional Lions lunch this weekend – and belatedly presented with medals by the Rugby Football League to commemorate their achievement.
“We’re righting a wrong,” said Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, after handing medals to some of the game’s all-time greats – and also to relatives of other members of the 1970 Lions who have passed away in the subsequent decades.
“It was a privilege for me to be here today, and to present medals to these great former players and in some cases their relatives, on behalf of the Rugby Football League, and the game of Rugby League.
“In the 125th anniversary of the sport, it’s important that we recognise the past – and the 50-year anniversary of that famous Lions tour of 1970 made this a symbolic time to honour their achievements.
“It also provides another reminder of the amount of history and heritage that will underpin the revival of the Rugby League Ashes this autumn, with our first three-Test series against Australia in 17 years.
“As Malcolm Reilly said on stage, 50 years has been a long time to wait – for a medal in his case, and to win the Ashes for us. We’ll make sure we find a way for Rugby League supporters to salute the heroes of 1970 during those three Tests later this year.”
In alphabetical order, the 1970 heroes who attended Saturday’s presentation were: Ray Dutton, Tony Fisher, Alan Hardisty, Keith Hepworth, Doug Laughton, Phil Lowe, Malcolm Reilly, Dave Robinson, Barry Seabourne, Alan Smith and Jimmy Thompson.
They sat together on the stage after receiving a standing ovation from a sold-out dinner of more than 450, and were soon reminiscing on tour memories – with the typically ebullient Laughton even drifting into song after his interview, with a few lines from Strangers in the Night.
Previously, there had been poignant presentations to relatives of Clive Sullivan, Dennis Hartley, Dave Chisnall, Chris Hesketh, John Atkinson and Roger Millward – after Millward’s starring role in the 1970 series had been shown on a video presentation of highlights from Brisbane and Sydney.
There were tributes to Johnny Whiteley and Frank Myler, who were coach and captain respectively, and who were unable to attend.
Another highlight of the day was an auction of a tour shirt presented by the family of the former Oldham forward Bob Irving, which raised £1,100 for Rugby League Cares.
As has become traditional at the Lions lunch, a number of players attending for the first time were presented with their heritage numbers and certificates – including the former St Helens hooker Graham Liptrot, the Huddersfield Giants centre Leroy Cudjoe, and the former Bradford Bulls and South Sydney forward Sam Burgess.
And the growing stature of Women’s Rugby League was illustrated with the presence of a number of former GB Lionesses including Brenda Dobek, Lisa Mcintosh and Gemma Walsh.
Picture: The legendary former Castleford half-back partnership of Alan Hardisty and Keith Hepworth, reunited again to receive their medals as members of the 1970 Ashes-winning Britain Rugby League Lions squad