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Title: ... p103 - Brian Bevan memories of by Newsquest Cheshire & Merseyside

He was a one-off and those still alive who saw him play feel heartily privileged


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Permission obtained from Emma Stewart
Internet Content Editor Newsquest Cheshire & Merseyside

Warrington Wolves



BRIAN Eyrl Bevan is one of Rugby League's all-time greats.

The Australian wing king set records that will never be beaten. He was a one-off and those still alive who saw him play feel heartily privileged.

Bev was not your most likely Rugby League superstar. When he first came to England looking for a trial he had to win over prejudices against his physique. How on earth could a balding, flimsily-framed and knobbly-kneed man be expected to cut it with the giants and tough guys that were suited to a sport of gladiatorial proportions?

Warrington offered him an 'A' team trial and it was one of the best decisions made by Wilderspool chiefs. Bevan became a permanent fixture on the Wire wing for 16 years and his skills were hailed throughout the game.

When Warrington played an away game the attendance was guaranteed to be swelled by 5,000 because everyone wanted to see the wizard from Oz play. Altogether, he played a club record 620 times for Warrington, scoring a world record 740 tries for one club in the process.

After moving on to finish his career with Blackpool and including his scoring feats for representative sides such as the now defunt Other Nationalities, he stretched his world record to 796 tries between 1946 and 1964.

He made his first team Warrington debut at home to Oldham on November 17, 1945, and made a tearful farewell appearance against Leigh on Easter Monday in 1962. With Bevan in their side, Warrington won 12 major trophies. They won the Rugby League Championship, three times; the Challenge Cup, twice; the Lancashire League, six times and the Lancashire Cup, once.

Bevan topped Warrington's try-scoring list every season from 1946/47 to 1960/61 except for 1956/57 when he was hit with injuries. He scored seven tries in a match twice, six tries in a match four times, five tries in a match six times and four tries in a match 20 times. Bevan also scored 66 hat-tricks.

So why was Bevan able to set such high achievement levels? His side-step was a powerful weapon, possibly second only to his outstanding speed. He also had the ability to swerve away from defenders and in many cases make them look like fools. Tales of the tries he scored have become legendary in Warrington's pubs and clubs. Those who saw him play have their own favourite tries that he scored but there are two particular ones that are generally regarded as his greatest.

One of them came at Oldham in muddy conditions in the second round of the Challenge Cup in 1954. It was the matchwinner. Warrington were trailing 4-2 early in the second half and under tremendous pressure in their own 25-yard area when Bevan struck. He nipped in to intercept a pass meant for Wigan's left winger Terry O'Grady and set off through the Watersheddings mud.

Only full back Bernard Ganley stood between him and the try line and, at first, it seemed that Bevan would try to beat him for pace down the touchline but, instead, he went round Ganley with a dazzling side-step, raced clear and planted the ball safely between the posts.

Years later, Ganley was to joke that he still had nightmares about Bevan running away from him. The goal was added and Warrington went on to win 7-4 in front of an all-ticket crowd of 20,000. The try assumed extra importance because Warrington went on to win the cup by beating Halifax in the final.

Bevan's other 'greatest' try came at Wigan in a 1948 Ward Cup game. It was seen by a crowd of 31,000 and was described as 'the try of the century'.

It came in the second half and Wire were under pressure. Warrington hooker Dave Cotton won the ball from a scrum five yards from the Wire try line. Scrum half Gerry Helme collected and passed to loose forward Harold Palin, who had quickly broken away from the pack. Palin passed to centre Albert Pimblett who drew Jack Hilton, the Wigan winger, and passed to Bevan.

Bevan was away, not along the touchline as the Wigan players would have expected, but on a diagonal run towards the centre of the pitch. Near the Warrington 25-yard line, full back Martin Ryan moved in to tackle the flying Australian. Centre Ernie Ashcroft and stand off Cec Mountford - both to become Wire coaches - closed in. But Bevan swerved, wrong-footed Ryan and sprinted away. Mountford gave chase but could not catch Bevan who completed his 125-yard run by touching down midway between the posts and corner flag.

Bevan added another try later in the game as Warrington went on to win 18-8.

His childhood reveals an intriguing insight into the wannabe Rugby League superstar. Bevan was born in Sydney on June 24, 1924. As a boy, he spent hours on the world famous Bondi Beach, surfing and swimming and developing a seemingly frail body into a fighting frame.

When he first played rugby at primary school, he was a stand off but he fractured an elbow in one game and his father, Rick, who had played for top Sydney Rugby League side Eastern Suberbs during the 1920s, advised him to move out to the wing.

As a 12-year-old Bevan was the New South Wales sprint champion, so he was ideally suited to the wing berth. His father took him to all the big Rugby League games at the Sydney Cricket Ground and, on his way home, young Bev would side-step all the telegraph poles en route - developing the ability to side-step off either foot. As a youngster, he used to play with 26 marbles, imagining they were 26 Rugby League players and, using his finger as the ball, he would work out different moves.

But he enjoyed, and excelled at most sports. Particular favourites were swimming, athletics and cricket and he once scored 127 not out for his school's first XI. On leaving school, Bevan took up an apprenticeship in the printing trade. He also followed his father to Eastern Suburbs. He had a volatile nature and during one match on Sydney Cricket Ground, a third grade final between Easts and Balmain in 1941, he was so incensed by the referee's handling of the game that he walked off the pitch.

But the world was still at war and, in 1942, he joined the Australian Navy at Cairns. Bevan spent most of his days at sea aboard the HMS Katoomba. In November, 1942, the ship was a little north of Papua New Guinea when Japanese dive-bombers attacked.

Miraculously, the ship suffered little damage and Bevan, who was off watch, was unhurt. Around this time, Bevan was chosen to play rugby for the Navy. He was rushed ashore but only arrived at the ground after the game had started. However, wearing a borrowed pair of torn and baggy shorts, he entered the fray and bewildered the opposition by scoring six tries without a hand being laid on him.

Shortly before the end of the war, Bevan was transferred to the HMAS Australia which had been damaged in action and was heading for England for a refit. Before leaving Australia, Bevan's father gave him a letter of introduction to fellow Australian Bill Shankland, who had played with Bevan senior at Easts in the 1920s.

Shankland, who had played for Warrington in the 1933 and 1936 Challenge Cup finals at Wembley, was then the golf professional at the Temple Newsham Club, near Leeds.

As soon as Bevan got shore leave in England, he travelled to Temple Newsham and introduced himself. Shankland took Bevan, who was now 21, for trials at Leeds and Hunslet, but neither club showed any interest in the sun-tanned but slightly built and balding sailor.

So Shankland advised the young right winger to try his luck at Wilderspool. Bevan made his Wire debut for Warrington's 'A' team as a trialist against Widnes A at Wilderspool on Saturday, November 10, 1945.

Warrington won 23-8 and Bevan astonished the small crowd with his pace. A minute before the end of the game, he scored a brilliant try from halfway, beating four men on his way to the line. Bevan made his first team debut at home to Oldham seven days later. Warrington won 12-3 in front of 6,000 fans with tries by Les Jones and Fred Higginbottom. Bevan gave another exciting display and had a try disallowed.

Bevan signed for Warrington the following day, November 18, 1945, but had to go back to Australia to be demobbed. After the long sea voyage, he arrived back in Warrington in September 1946 on a cold, damp evening and then had to endure one of the coldest winters for many years.

After initial reservations, however, and with many offers of help, he settled down in the town where he was to become a legend. Bevan's arrival was in time for the first round, second leg of the Lancashire Cup at home to Salford. Bevan scored the first of his 740 tries for the first team - by neatly side-stepping the Salford full back - and added the goal.

That match was the start of an incredible run in which Bevan played in 42 consecutive games until the end of the season and became the club's leading try scorer with 48 and goalkicker with 34. He also became the first Warrington player to top Rugby League's try scorers' list and his 48 tries smashed the club's tries in a season record which stood at 36.

Warrington Rugby League had never seen anything like it. But that was only the beginning as his records show. On leaving Wilderspool, Bevan joined Blackpool Borough as a coach in June 1962.

The following month - at the age of 38 - he signed for them as a player for a nominal fee. He spent two seasons with the Seasiders, scoring 10 tries in the 1962/63 season and seven in the 1963/64 campaign.

At Halifax in 1964, at the ripe old age of 40, he played for Other Nationalities in an international sevens competition and won the trophy for 'Player of the Day'. A crowd of 6,000 demanded a lap of honour from him and he was escorted round and off the pitch by all the players, some of whom had not even been at school when Bevan was first thrilling the crowds at Wilderspool.

Bevan continued to thrill crowds at Testimonial games well into the 1970s. Bevan's only regrets in the game were few and he said, that if he could have started all over again, he would have done it all the same way.

Not playing for his native Australia was a regret, and so too was not breaking Albert Rosenfeld's record of 80 tries in a season. He also wished he had been better advised about the financial rewards his undoubted skills deserved.

It was no surprise in October 1988 that Bev was among the original nine all-time greats to be featured in Rugby League's Hall of Fame.

Bevan died in a Southport hospital at the age of 66 on Monday, June 3, 1991. The tributes poured in, including one from one of Bevan's arch-rivals Billy Boston - the only other player to have scored more than 500 career tries.

Ex-Wigan winger Boston said in the Warrington Guardian: "Brian Bevan was the greatest I ever played against. He was a real gentleman. No-one will ever near his record."

And Warrington club president Clarrie Owen said: "Words cannot really describe Brian Bevan. He was a one-off. His try-scoring was phenomenal.

"I have been privileged to be born in an era which produced Brian Bevan."


1945/46 1 appearance, 0 tries
1946/47 42 apps, 48 tries
1947/48 43 apps, 57 tries
1948/49 44 apps, 56 tries
1949/50 39 apps, 30 tries
1950/51 40 apps, 60 tries
1951/52 39 apps, 46 tries
1952/53 41 apps, 66 tries
1953/54 45 apps, 62 tries
1954/55 37 apps, 61 tries
1955/56 41 apps, 53 tries
1956/57 26 apps, 14 tries
1957/58 40 apps, 45 tries
1958/59 40 apps, 54 tries
1959/60 40 apps, 40 tries
1960/61 42 apps, 35 tries
1961/62 20 apps, 13 tries

1962/63 10 tries
1963/64 7 tries

39 tries, including 26 for Other Nationalities

Appears in the following pages ....P103_Brian BEVAN
Date of posting ... 03-May-2004
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