FLASHBACK: DECEMBER 1986

DECEMBER 1986

Australian Rugby League skipper, Wally Lewis rejected an offer from Wigan to play the remainder of the English season with the Greater Manchester club, after his commitments with the Kangaroos finished in France.

Lewis cited a shoulder injury as the reason, saying he needed to freshen up for the 1987 Brisbane season, his second as captain-coach of Wynnum-Manly. And there was the little matter of the launch of his book, ‘King Wally’, written by Adrian McGregor.

In 1984-85, Lewis had played eight matches for Wakefield Trinity at 1,300 pounds a game. Wigan, a far wealthier club, undoubtedly were willing to pay more.

The prospect of Lewis joining Wigan, who were coached by Kiwi, Graham Lowe, was first raised after the Kangaroos’ hard fought 26-18 win over the club at Central Park in October, at the start of the Kangaroo tour.

Wigan supremo, Maurice Lindsay was introduced to Lewis by Lowe, after the match. Lindsay said to Lewis: “I’ll give you a ring sometime. I think you know what it’s about.”

In December, Lindsay was rocked by a shock transfer request from his superstar back, Ellery Hanley, but the differences between Hanley and the club were settled before Christmas. Halfback, Mike Ford also wanted out at Wigan.

Wigan also had been hard hit by the British Government, which cut capacity at Central Park from 30,000 to 12,000, for safety reasons. Well over 30,000 had crammed into Central Park for the match against the Kangaroos.

Great Britain halfback, Andy Gregory was fined 250 pounds by his club, Warrington and suspended for two weeks for missing two training sessions. Gregory refused to pay and was listed at a then world record 150,000 pounds transfer fee.

British coach, Maurice Bamford decided not to see a renewal of his contract because of his wife’s multiple sclerosis. But late in December, returned to Leeds as coach, following the axing of Peter Fox.

Leigh also sacked their coach – Tommy Dickens – and replaced him with former Test centre/winger, Billy Benyon.

There was high drama at Barrow in a John Player Trophy knockout competition match when Widnes’ Test winger, John Basnett swallowed his tongue. But all ended well, thanks to life-saving treatment on the field.

Playing for Wakefield Trinity, Wally Lewis leaves Hull’s Peter Sterling in his wake

Ellery Hanley (Photos Andrew Varley).

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