Alan Davies: Rugby league centre who won 20 Test caps
Tuesday 17 February 2009
Alan Davies would be many people's choice as the finest player of rugby league for Oldham, as well as one of Great Britain's best-ever centres. In an era when there was plenty of competition in the position, Davies won 20 Test caps, touring Australia in 1958 and playing in the World Cups of 1957 and 1960.
He joined Oldham from the Leigh amateur club Dootsons in July 1950 and made his debut against Wakefield Trinity two months later. It was the first of 391 appearances that brought him a club record 174 tries.
Never lacking confidence in his ability, Davies was jokingly nicknamed "Waggy" by his team-mates, after Harold Wagstaff, arguably the best centre the game had ever produced.
"He was an absolutely brilliant centre," says Roger Halstead, who covered the club for the Oldham Evening Chronicle for almost 50 years. "He had everything; strength, pace, an eye for an opening and a bit of a mean streak. Wingers outside him could hardly go wrong."
Davies shared in all of Oldham's successes of the 1950s, appearing in two Championship finals and four Lancashire Cup finals. The Roughyeds, as they are still known, won the former in 1957 and the latter three years running from 1956.
In 1955, Davies captained the Oldham side that lost 7-3 to Warrington in the Championship final at Maine Road. The high-water mark for the formidable and skilful Oldham team of the era was two years later, when they finished top of the league and beat Hull 15-14 at Odsal to take the trophy. It was arguably the club's best-ever side, with players like Bernard Ganley, John Etty and Derek Turner, but Davies was one of its brightest stars.
The great omission, for both player and club, was a Challenge Cup final at Wembley, but he put that right after his transfer to Wigan in 1961. Two years after his move, he was a member of the Wigan team that made it to the big occasion, although they lost 23-10 to Wakefield Trinity.
Davies made a further 132 appearances for Wigan, scoring 52 tries, making him a significant figure in the history of two clubs. It is at Oldham that he is really revered, however, not least because his 20 Tests make him that club's most capped player.
He first played for England in 1953 and was considered unlucky not to be selected for a 1954 tour, but his Great Britain career began with two caps against the visiting New Zealanders the following year.
In 1956, he played in all three Tests against the touring Kangaroos. He scored a try in the first Test victory at Wigan and, unusually for him, two goals in the series decider at Swinton, which Great Britain won by a convincing 19-0 to regain the Ashes.
In 1957, he made his first trip to Australia for the World Cup, playing against France and Australia in the tournament. The following year he was back, playing in the first and third Tests of the series as the Ashes were won. In 1960, he appeared in the World Cup again, playing in all the matches as Great Britain won the round-robin tournament without the need for a final and scoring three tries in the process. His Great Britain career ended against France that same year.
Davies also played 17 times for Lancashire, another Oldham club record, and was one of the inaugural inductees in the club's Hall of Fame in 1995.
After his retirement in 1964, Davies devoted an increasing amount of time to the Jehovah's Witnesses. He was a preacher and an elder of the Kingdom Hall in Darwen and helped to organise the building of other centres throughout the country.
Alan Davies, rugby league player: born Leigh, Lancashire 4 February 1933; married (one son, three daughters); died Blackburn Lancashire 2 February 2009.
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