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fm90 - GUS RISMAN STORY, Workington and Salford Legend.

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ian Brogden, Deputy editor
Times & Star,
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The article and pictures below are courtesy of the
Times and Star News Workington
Many thanks to Ian Brogden, Deputy editor
Times & Star, Workington

Visit the Times and Star News website www.timesandstar.co.uk  

Lifting the Challenge Cup for Workington 1952


BORN in 1911 to Latvian parents who had settled in Cardiff, Augustus John 'Gus' Risman is one of the all-time rugby league greats.

He was spotted by Lance Todd, the New Zealand born manager of Salford, when he was just 17 and was a footballer that many teams coveted.

Cardiff rugby union club was interested in him as was association football side Tottenham Hotspur, whose scouts arrived at his home looking to sign a left back only to find that he had signed on January 31, 1929, for Salford RL for a fee of 77 pounds.

Unfortunately, he broke his ankle during in his first game but Todd nursed him back to the side, so that he became the greatest centre three-quarter of the decade.

Gus Risman had a phenomenal career - 25 years and four months between his August 31, 1929 debut for Salford and his final match for Batley, with a tremendous stint at newly-formed Workington in between.

He was 43 years old when he hung up his boots and only two British players are famous for being older than that, Joe Ferguson, of Oldham and Jeff Grayshon, who finished up with Batley.

A big, strong and a fearless tackler with a natural footballing ability, Risman had one other major claim to fame - he was more than 41 when he received the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1952, after Workington Town had beaten Featherstone Rovers 18-10 in the final.

Captaining the side from fullback, he kicked a penalty in the first minute and converted two tries later on. The match report is printed at the bottom of this page.

It was not the first time that he had got his hands on the cup. Salford beat Barrow in 1938 and the picture of Risman and the cup being carried shoulder high round the stadium is now a famous image.

He set more store on his health and fitness than most rugby league footballers which is why he lasted so long - and it also explains a great deal of Salford's pre-eminence in the thirties, when they won the championship three times, the Challenge Cup once, the Lancashire Cup four times and topped the Lancashire League on five occasions.


Played for Wales 18 times (1931-1945)

Played for Great Britain 17 times (1932-1946)

Toured Australia three times (1932,1936 and 1946) and captained the side in nine Test matches.

With Salford, he scored 2,007 points in 427 games and won the Championship in 1933, 1937 and 1939 and Challenge Cup in 1938.

With Workington, he scored 1,533 points in 301 games and won the Challenge Cup in 1952

Played 873 first class games, scoring 232 tries, 1,678 goals and amassing 4,052 points

For Workington, in a sense, Risman was even more effective because they had been in the Northern Rugby League for only one season when he joined in August 1946.

The fledgling side's greatest need was for someone who knew the ropes and could inspire a promising, young outfit. In his eight years as player-coach he formed a team capable of beating anyone else in the league and they won a championship as well as the Challenge Cup, after beating York, St Helen's, Warrington and Barrow on their way to Wembley.

In 301 games for the West Cumbrians, five feet 10 inches tall Risman, a supreme tactician, kicked 717 goals and scored 33 tries.

His international life had finished by the time he moved to West Cumbria but it had been a successful one over 14 seasons. His first representative honour was in 1930 at centre for the Glamorgan and Monmouthsire side that beat Yorkshire 14-10. He scored a try.

Four months later he played for Wales against England and that was to be the first of 18 caps. He also gained one for England in the first match France played in Paris in 1934.

He had his first taste of Test football on the 1932 tour to Australia and toured again in 1936 and then as one of the 1946 Indomitables, the visitors who went Down Under on board the aircraft carrier of that name and returned unbeaten.

The war failed to stop his career. He joined the military police and served with the First Airborne Division in North Africa but he also captained Wales in a couple of rugby union services internationals and appeared as a guest player with Hunslet, Leeds, Bradford Northern and Dewsbury.

If his career had not been interrupted by the conflict, it is likely that he would have set records which could never have been surpassed.

When his playing career ended, he coached at Salford, Oldham and Bradford. He was one of the original nine inductees into the rugby league Hall of Fame in 1988.

Both of Risman's sons were acclaimed rugby players - John with Workington, Fulham, Blackpool and Carlisle and Bev with Leigh and Leeds.

Gus Risman died on October 17, 1994, aged 83.

member of the Challenge Cup side:

"We went to Wembley as the slight favourites and we came out on top because of an outstanding team spirit. We didn't play for ourselves, we played for the team, it didn't matter who scored the tries as long as they were scored and it didn't matter who kicked the goals as long as they went over - and you have to say that Gus Risman was largely responsible for that team spirit.

"As a coach and as a leader he was about perfect. Steady was the way Gus played it and he could read a game so well. I remember well in the lead up to our championship victory against Warrington the season before, we were up against Wigan and he spotted where things were going wrong in our back division. Jackie Thomas our stand off, who was brilliant but not fast, was the problem. He wouldn't stay wide because he felt he wouldn't be able to catch Ces Mountford (Wigan's stand off) if he broke throw.

"But Jackie did lie wide in the second half and Billy Ivison and Johnny Mudge took care of Ces Mountford - in fact they murdered him. That was Gus Risman's game plan. Ces Mountford came in to our dressing room afterwards, which he didn't normally do, and told us if we played like that against Warrington, we would win the championship."


Workington Town 18 10 Featherstone Rovers

PEPPERELL kicked off against the sun and slight breeze and Town got early encouragement when Daly ran offside about 30 yards from his own lines and Risman kicked a grand goal barely within a minute's play.

A movement by Thomas, Pepperell and Ivison put Town on the attack again. Risman had another chance when Gant ran offside but Risman failed to utilise the concession. The Cumbrians' handling was none too good and dropped passes came rather too frequently.

Gant was prominent in a good breakaway but lacked support. It was Town who faulted when Ivison ran offside and Miller almost equalised, his shot striking the upright and bouncing into play, and Paskins, along with G. Wilson, relieved the pressure. The latter was just pulled up in a swift passing movement from right to left.

The Cumbrians' opening try came after 16 minutes. The busy Ivison started it from a play ball when he whipped round the narrow side. Paskins carried on the movement marked his intentions to accelerate forward, then Lawrenson went ahead by kicking obliquely inside which beat the cross cover. He was there to kick ahead again, and in the process had Miller well beaten. Regaining possession, he was tackled from behind by Metcalfe, but quickly played the ball forward to touch down on the line. Risman landed a goal.

Although the Town had a lead of seven points their play showed a lack of confidence, a remark equally applicable to Featherstone.

The White Roses reduced the lead in the 20th minute when Pepperell failed to put the ball in straight and Miller landed a good goal. The Park men returned to the attack and a fine passing movement sent G. Wilson away. He was making excellent progress when Metcalfe put him into touch.

The Whites had a chance when Ivison lost a ball and Gant, picking up, kicked aloft and Gibson saved the situation. The Cumbrians were penalised and Miller reduced the margin to three points, after 25 minutes' play.

A roundabout between Pepperell and Thomas failed when the latter slipped when, at least, good progress was certain. On the other hand the Yorkshiremen were attacking strongly and playing with more confidence. Paskins saved when Evans kicked ahead and Mudge, Hayton and Wilson were also prominent in defence.

Miller was unsuccessful with a drop at goal and Cording was held close in after a weaving run and Batten almost crossed over in the right corner. There was no doubt Featherstone were playing virile and thrustful football and Town's defence was somewhat harassed.

A beautiful triangular movement between Gibson, Paskins and Lawrenson ended when the latter just failed to get through a midfield maze, and when Lawrenson got going again and kicked ahead he was obstructed by Mitchell, but Risman's shot at goal from a difficult angle failed.

Town took up the running till half time when the score stood - Workington Town (2 goals, 1 try) 7pts; Featherstone Rovers (2 goals) 4pts.


A series of kicking exchanges between Miller and Risman featured the opening play of the second half, but the duel ended in favour of the White Rose man, and they continued to have the best of matters. Evans knocked on when close in.

Batten put the Whites on equal terms after four minutes. It was Welburn who started the movement. Lambert joined in and Batten did the rest in a half-feinting half-jolting run to the line and over. Miller could not put the Yorkshiremen in the lead with his kick.

G. Wilson put Town in a strong position with a fine run, kick and tackle of Gant, who fielded the ball, but Town did not make the most of their opportunity when Miller relieved.

Ivison broke through in great style but was half tackled and stumbled. A minute later he was on show again and this time his clever and resourceful play bore fruit. At half way, with Mudge in support, the latter got possession but only after the wing forward had drawn Miller. In a great burst and hotly pursued, Mudge ran in a clever line of flight to the line, which he made. Risman failed at goal. This try came in the 17th minute and if this was not the turning point in the game then it came a minute later.

Featherstone were pressing near the Town 25, and Daly, who had hitherto been prominent, in an effort to supply Mitchell sent out a high slack pass which was immediately pounced upon by the vigilant Lawrenson. With the defence all at variance he went through in great style to score near the posts with Mitchell in unavailing pursuit. Risman added the extra points.

Town now became more adventurous, but their opponents' direct spotting was good, as well as the cross-cover, where Lawrenson and G. Wilson were often held in subjection.

In the 25th minute the Featherstone line fell again. Ivison had received at the base of the scrum and the ball travelled quickly to the left. Thomas was very prominent in this movement, with sufficient speed to receive again from Paskins, the Welshman finally sent in G. Wilson. Miller and Metcalfe trying unavailingly to down their man. Risman failed at goal.

Another fine passing movement by Town was started by Wareing and travelled to Ivison, Thomas, Gibson, Mudge, the latter, unfortunately knocked on. Risman just failed when he came up, after Ivison had made the way through. The wing forward came again but this time he threw forward.

Town continued to have the best of it, but Featherstone were not going to strike down their flag and continued in the mood of challenge. Pepperell, with a kick, found touch at midfield, but Metcalfe brought Featherstone within striking distance.

From a play-ball Daly sent out to Evans, who broke unexpectedly clean through from the 25 and was given the award for touching down. Miller could not convert. This score came after 35 minutes.

The final ended with the result Workington Town (3 goals, 4 tries) 18pts; Featherstone Rovers (2 goals, 2 tries) 10pts.

Town: Gus Risman, Johnny Lawrenson, Tony Paskins, Eppie Gibson, George Wilson, John Thomas, Albert Pepperell, Jimmy Hayton, Vivian McKeating, Jimmy Wareing, John Mudge, Bevan Wilson, Billy Ivison.

Featherstone: Fred Miller, Eric Batten, Donald Metcalfe, Alan Tennant, Norman Mitchell, Ray Cording, Raymond Evans, Ken Welburn, Will Bradshaw, John Daly, Fred Hulme, Laurie Gant, Cliff Lambert.

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