VALE FRANK MYLER
Frank Myler made his first team debut for Widnes when he was just 16, in 1955.
Fifteen years later he captained the Great Britain Lions rugby league side to an Ashes series win over Australia, in Australia. That touring side also won all three Tests against the Kiwis, and has gone down in history as the most successful Lions’ squad.
They went home with the following record – Played 24, won 22, drew one, lost one. Points for 753, against 288.
The only loss was the First Test against Australia at Lang Park in Brisbane. The drawn match was against New South Wales at the SCG.
My father, Jon took me to that 1970 First Test, which proved one of the most violent in the annals of the game, often remembered for British prop, Cliff Watson’s head butting of Australian rival, Jim Morgan.
The Brits had cruised through the Queensland leg of the tour, but thanks largely to Myler’s astute leadership, they stepped up a gear when they embarked on the tougher New South Wales leg.
Myler played 24 Tests for Britain between 1960 and 1970, and, aside from the 1970 Ashes triumph, his other major international successes were the 1960 World Cup (Britain beat Australia 10-3 in the final at Bradford); and the 1965 series win over the touring Kiwis.
He played 369 first team matches for his home town team, Widnes between 1955 and 1967, sharing in a Challenge Cup final triumph at Wembley in 1964, when he scored a try in the Chemics’ 13-5 win over Hull Kingston Rovers.
He moved to St Helens in 1967 and finished his playing career with Rochdale Hornets.
In 1991 he coached Widnes to a win in the Regal Trophy final, the club’s last major piece of silverware.
I interviewed Frank a number of times, when he was coach of the 1984 Great side in Australia. They were a young, fit side, but lacked real class, and lost all three Tests against Australia and all three Tests in New Zealand, a stark contrast to what Myler had experienced as a player in 1970.
Frank was a little hard to understand at times, and his gravelly voice didn’t help matters, at crowded press conferences.
The 1984 series was future Immortal, Wally Lewis’s first as Australian skipper.
Myler had to contend with several key player withdrawals before that tour, most notably Wakefield prop, Trevor Skerrett, who had been named captain. Bradford’s Brian Noble, a police officer, was the replacement skipper.
In 1970, Great Britain had boasted some of the game’s all time greats, including Mal Reilly, Cliff Watson, Roger Millward, Alan Hardisty, Doug Laughton, Phil Lowe, Clive Sullivan and Myler himself.
My close friend, Brian Atherton, who was born and bred in Widnes, but now lives at Taree in New South Wales, tells me that Myler, Laughton and another Widnes’ legend, Vince Karalius, are cousins.
The Myler name is synonymous with rugby league in England, but I’m not clear on who is related to whom, and in what way, when mentioning Frank, Tony, John and Stephen, the latter having started as a league player in Widnes before switching to union, where he represented England. Tony was five eighth for Great Britain rugby league against the 1986 Kangaroos.
Frank Myler’s biography, ‘A Touch of Class’, was written by former British coach, Maurice Bamford, who only passed away last year.
An indoor sports centre in Widnes is named after Frank Myler. Fittingly, it is located opposite the Widnes Golf Club, where Frank loved to play a round or two.
1 Frank Myler scores a try at Wembley 1964
2 Frank Myler enjoys a cup of tea with footballer/Catholic priest, Fr John Cootes, after Mass on the 1970 tour of Australia
3 Frank Myler is presented with the Ashes trophy by Australian team manager, Norman ‘Latchem’ Robinson. On Myler’s right is ARL acting secretary, Charles Bannerman and on his left is British tour manager, John Harding.
4 Frank Myler, triumphant at the SCG.