Harry Bath: Rugby league player who twice won the Challenge Cup with Warrington

Harry Bath spent most of his long life saddled with the reputation of being the best Australian rugby league player never to represent his country. A more positive way of looking at his career would be to acknowledge him as the most influential figure of his generation on forward play on both sides of the globe.

Bath's chance to play for Australia came early in his career, but he injured his knee playing for New South Wales against the 1946 British tourists. The following year, he followed the lucrative route to England by signing for Barrow. Not only did the Australian selectors ignore him for the decade he was away – which was standard practice for the time – they appeared to continue to punish him when he returned to his homeland and was quite clearly the outstanding forward in the game.

Bath was born and brought up in Brisbane and played his first senior rugby league there for the Souths club. Offers soon came in from the big Sydney outfits, but it was Balmain, who took him on a tour of North Queensland, who got him to sign on. Bath was an instant success in Sydney, playing in the Balmain sides that won the Premiership in 1946 and 1947 before being lured to England. His stay with Barrow was a short one, because of a dispute over the terms on which he had signed, but he found a second home at Warrington, for whom he made 346 appearances.

As a second-rower, there was no one better in the game, especially when he added English-learnt ball-skills to his natural Australian rumbustiousness. He was also an accomplished goal-kicker, topping the kicking list on his way to a club record 363 points in the 1952-53 season.

He captained Warrington to their 19-0 Challenge Cup final victory over Widnes at Wembley in 1950, scoring one of their tries. Four years later, he was part of the team that beat Halifax 8-4 in the famous replayed final in front of a world-record crowd of more than 102,000 at Odsal, kicking a penalty that was crucially important in such a tight game.

In both those finals, he played alongside the fellow-Australian who was his only serious rival for the title of best player never to win a cap – the phenomenal winger, Brian Bevan. The two also played together many times for the star-studded Other Nationalities side that competed in the European Championship.

That was to be the nearest either of them got to Test rugby, but Bath was to have a remarkable second career in the game after returning to Australia in 1957. He joined the powerful St George club that had embarked on its record run of 11 Sydney Premierships and played in the Grand Final victories of 1957, 1958 and 1959, his ball skills adding a new dimension to an Australian style of play that had become excessively reliant on brute force. Not that he was any shrinking violet: his final match saw him sent off for fighting with Manly's Rex Mossop.

He is primarily remembered, however, for his refined passing andkicking skills. His record of winning the Premiership in all five of the seasons in which he played remains unique and there was something almost fitting about the way he died, after a long illness, on the eve of this year's Grand Final.

Bath was happily retired from the game and running a pub when his old club, Balmain, approached him to coach them in 1961. With limited resources, he took them to Grand Finals in 1964 and 1966, only to lose on both occasions to the all-conquering St George. He later coached Newtown with moderate success, but his golden period – the one that earned him the name "the Old Fox" – came when he took over St George in the late 1970s. They were no longer the force they had been, but Bath steered young and unfancied teams to Premierships in 1977 and 1979. His emphasis was always on his forwards, and it was tough and skilful packs upon which those successes were built.

Despite never being picked to play for his country, he twice coached Australia. The first time was in 1962, but during his second tenure from 1968 to 1972 they twice won the World Cup. Bath called time on his coaching career after the 1981 season at St George and had little direct involvement in the game after that. Indeed, he was often scathing about it. "There's no skill in it," he used to complain. "The players are like robots." Nobody could say that about Harry Bath and the way he played rugby league.





Harry Bath, rugby league player and coach: born Brisbane, Queensland 28 November 1924; married; died Sydney, New South Wales 4 October 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot