Parry Gordon: Rugby league scrum-half regarded as unlucky not to play for Britain

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The Independent Online

Parry Gordon had a good claim to being the best scrum-half never to play for Great Britain, but he went a long way towards making up for that omission with a long and distinguished career for his only club.

Although he was born in Wigan in 1945, that club was Warrington, for whom he signed on his 16th birthday and served for 20 years. He was the last important signing made by their famous secretary-manager, Cec Mountford, who also died earlier this year, and he received the handsome sum of £400.

He made his first-team debut in a victory against Barrow in October 1963, was established as the first-choice scrum-half by 1965 and stayed that way for the next 15 years.

For the first few of those seasons, Warrington were a mediocre side, but in 1971 Alex Murphy arrived as player-coach and identified Gordon as one of the players he would build a new side around. Over the next eight years, he appeared in eight major finals, including a victory and a defeat at Wembley in the Challenge Cup, and captained the side that won the John Player Trophy in 1978.

Gordon was a key man in a highly successful Warrington side. Unlike many scrum-halves, he was not particularly noted for his kicking game – he managed a grand total of one drop goal and no goals from place kicks in his career – but he was an exemplary defender despite his modest stature, had an electrifying running game and was a master of support play.

That explains how he came to score 167 tries for the club, fifth on their all-time list, including five in a match against the reigning champions, Dewsbury, in 1974. His total of 543 appearances for Warrington is second only to Brian Bevan and he became a member of the club's Hall of Fame.

Gordon was unlucky in the sense that he played his rugby at a time when there were so many outstanding scrum-halves blocking his path to a Test cap. At the start of his career, Murphy was the doyen of the position, with others of the calibre of Keith Hepworth, Tommy Bishop and Roger Millward waiting in the wings. During his latter years in the game, the likes of Steve Nash had come through and claimed the spot.

Millward described him as "the complete scrum-half. You could never take a breather against him." He rated him as one of the very best he had faced, in Britain or Australia. The very least that can be said for Gordon is that numerous far worse scrum-halves have worn the No 7 shirt for Great Britain. The closest he came was with England's World Cup squad on the way to Australia in 1975, when he played as a substitute in a game against Papua New Guinea which was not classified as a full international.

He did play for Great Britain Under-24s and seven times for Lancashire, who had an almost equal embarrassment of riches at scrum-half, but it is for his consistent excellence with The Wire – as they were then known – that he will be most remembered. He became one of the few players anywhere to be awarded two testimonials for 20 years service and he was an assistant coach at Wilderspool for several seasons after his retirement.

Dave Hadfield

Parry Gordon, rugby league player: born Wigan 17 February 1945; married Valerie (three daughters); died Warrington 3 November 2009.