St Helens’ second rower, Dick Huddart was the chief destroyer when the Great Britain Rugby League team ran roughshod over Australia in their 1962 Ashes campaign.
The tall, former coal miner was a devastating runner of the ball, noted for leaving defenders in his wake in a career which saw him play 16 Tests for Britain, and claim a Lance Todd Trophy Medal as player of the match in St Helens’ 12-6 win over Wigan, in the 1961 Challenge Cup final at London’s Wembley Stadium.
He was a try scorer in St George’s 23-4 win over Balmain at the SCG in 1966, the Saints’ last Sydney title in that incredible 11-year run of premiership triumphs.
Born at Flimby, a coal mining village not far from coastal Maryport in Cumbria, Huddart followed his father, a former amateur league player, down the mines in the local area, working as a fitter.
Dick signed a professional contract with Whitehaven when he turned 18, modelling his game on noted running forward, Geoff Gunney, who was a regular in the British side at the time.
Huddart made his Test debut at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds on the 1958 tour of Australia and New Zealand. Australia had won the First Test 25-8 in Sydney and had named virtually an unchanged side for the return clash, with centre, Peter Dimond (Wests Sydney) the only debutant.
British prop, Brian McTigue told Huddart to follow him and run off his passes, and it worked a treat, with the tall Cumbrian regularly finding himself in the clear.
In that Second Test, British skipper, Alan Prescott played most of the game with a broken arm, yet the tourists won 25-18. They went on to win the decider 40-17, back in Sydney.
On his return to England, Huddart signed with St Helens, at the urging of tour roommate, Vince Karalius and from there Huddart played for Britain against the 1959 Kangaroos and the 1961 Kiwis.
The 1961 Challenge Cup final, played on a hot, steamy day in front of 94,672 at Wembley, saw Huddart come up against the wily McTigue. Huddart, Karalius and fellow backrower, Don Vines led the assaults on the Wigan line, with Huddart receiving the Lance Todd Trophy from the Earl of Derby.
Huddart returned to Australia in 1962 as one of the senior members of the British touring side, coached by Colin Hutton and captained by Eric Ashton. For the second time in as many tours, Huddart played the most games.
Huddart, McTigue, Nev Herbert, Bill Sayer and Brian Edgar played in all three Tests against Australia, with Britain claiming the Ashes with wins in Sydney (31-12) and Brisbane (17-10), before being beaten on the bell, 18-17 in the Third Test, back in Sydney.
In the First Test, Huddart was concussed after taking a kick to the head, and didn’t know where he was at halftime. Hutton revved him up, and Huddart went out and scored soon after the break, bumping off several defenders and taking Britain to a 14-7 lead.
“I couldn’t remember anything of the match, until the boys were slapping me on the back for the scoring the try,” Huddart told Sydney journalist, George Crawford.
At the end of the Ausralian leg of the tour, Britain played Sydney premiers, St George in front of a mid-week crowd of 57,774, with the fans confident St George could do better than Australia. Britain won 33-5, with Huddart scoring a try.
When the Kangaroos toured Britain in 1963, Huddart was unavailable for the first two Tests because of injury, with Australia winning 28-2 at Wembley and 50-12 at Swinton. Huddart returned for the Third Test at Leeds, which Britain won 16-5.
After the Leeds’ match, Huddart told Australian lock, Johnny Raper he was planning to emigrate. Raper contacted St George chief, Frank Facer, and the Dragons made an offer to Huddart, with St Helens releasing him after the Sydney club paid a world record 12,500 pounds transfer fee.
Huddart; his wife and daughter arrived in Sydney mid-way through 1964, settling at Bexley. He missed the 1964 grand final because of a knee injury, and then in 1965 found himself out of favour with St George captain-coach, Norm ‘Sticks’ Provan and played mainly reserve grade, with Provan preferring Queenslander, Elton Rasmussen.
When Ian Walsh took over as captain-coach in 1966, Huddart was back in favour, and scored a long range try in the grand final, running off a pass from Walsh.
Huddart played with St George until the end of the 1968 season and then took on a captain-coach job at Dubbo, before returning to England, where he played again for Whitehaven, and went back down the mines.
But he missed Australia, and when his marriage ended in 1971, returned to Sydney, where St George help set him up for life after football.
In 1995 Huddart moved to the Gold Coast, where he lived the rest of his life. An accomplished landscape artist, he enjoyed the vistas provided by the Tweed Valley and the Gold Coast hinterland. And with so many former Sydney, English and Kiwi footballers living on the Coast, there was no shortage of old mates to catch up with, over a beer.
In his book ‘Never Before, Never Again’, about St George’s 11-year premiership run, author, Larry Writer wrote there was a case to be made that rugby league had never seen a running forward as devastating as Huddart.
“Charging onto the precision passes from McTigue, Karalius and Derek Turner, the strapping second rower’s strength and genuine speed saw him shock and demolish the best defences Australian sides of the late 50s and 60s could stack against him,” Writer penned. “Watching old footage of him on the rampage, is a revelation. His thundering charges, head down, shoulders hunched, strong white legs powering him over the top of forwards and fast fleet backs, were a major factor in Britain’s domination of league in those days.”
In 1995, Writer described the then 60-year-old Huddart as “a free spirit, a large laughing man, with a shock of still-dark hair and a rakish moustache.”
Huddart died on August 11, 2021, aged 85 and his passing was widely reported in the British media, on the BBC and in regional newspapers in the north of England. His son, Milton, who played for England against Wales in 1984, from Whitehaven, and had a brief stint with the Canberra Raiders, pre-deceased him.