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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

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

Maths Teacher - from October half term

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Long term Math Post - potentiall...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is currently recruitin...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DARTFORD

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week