Steve Prescott: Sportsman who raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity after being diagnosed with terminal cancer

 

Steve Prescott, who has died at the age of 39, would be an educated choice as one of rugby league’s bravest players – on and off the field. The first side of that equation saw him enjoy a fine career with his home-town club, St Helens, Hull and Wakefield, tour with Great Britain and represent both England and Ireland.

All this was despite him being told repeatedly that he was not big enough to be a specialist full-back in the modern game, something he went on to disprove convincingly. What was never in dispute was the size of his heart.

In 2006, three years after his retirement as a player, he was diagnosed as suffering from a rare form of stomach cancer and was given six months to live. That news came in the same week as the birth of his second son, Koby.

Prescott did the very opposite to sitting down and feeling sorry for himself. He embarked on a series of incredible physical challenges to raise over half a million pounds for charity, challenges that would have been too much for the vast majority of men in perfect health.

The Steve Prescott Foundation benefited Christie’s Hospital and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund; more than that, he showed that there is life after being told that you are in an apparently hopeless situation. He organised and took part in events ranging from boxing and cycling, to marathon running and rowing. The most spectacular feat was in 2009, when he led a group, many of them ex-players, across France on mountain bikes, across the Channel by boat and finishing with a half marathon to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final. It was with this sort of feat in mind that Prescott was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s honours list for 2010. He was also the inaugural winner of the Spirit of Mike Gregory Award, in memory of the former Great Britain captain.

Despite his size – he was never heavier than 11 stones – Prescott was destined to play rugby league football. He was the son of the St Helens, Widnes and Salford player Eric Prescott, and first began to learn his trade with his local amateur club, Nutgrove.    

He signed for Saints in 1992 and made his first team debut against Leigh the following year. He quickly became a regular member of the side and was a key man in the St Helens team that won the Challenge Cup and Super League in 1996. Among his memorable contributions were two tries against Bradford in the Cup final at Wembley and four against Sheffield Eagles in the League.

Amid all that, he was called up by England for the first time, racking up a record 22 points against France in Gateshead and being named as man of the match. He also scored the winning try against Wales in Cardiff two weeks later.

At the end of the season he was named in the Great Britain squad to tour Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand. He failed to make the Test team, however, and was one of 11 players brought home early from New Zealand as a cost-cutting measure.

The following year he was a member of the side that again beat Bradford at Wembley, but at the end of the season he was unable to agree a new contract with Saints. He was one of a number of local players who felt taken for granted at the club.

Along with two others, Alan Hunte and Simon Booth, he joined newly-promoted Hull in a £350,000 transfer. Prescott played some of his best rugby there and despite a brief, ill-fated cameo at Wakefield, Hull became his second home.

He returned to play there in 2001, after he had played for Ireland in the World Cup at the end of the previous season, qualifying through a grandparent. He was a major factor in Hull’s steady improvement, but his career was ended by a broken knee-cap in a game at Bradford.

His new career was as a teacher and lecturer, although he also coached the under-16s at Hull. After his diagnosis he returned to live in the North-west, where he helped St Helens with the mentoring of their young players. Much of his remaining energy, however, went into his fund-raising adventures.

Last October he led a 48-hour marathon that involved swimming in the Humber and the Mersey, cycling across the country, running 18 miles and kayaking up the Bridgewater Canal to the Grand Final at Old Trafford. He had hoped to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, but his condition worsened this year.

All the same, Prescott had given his cancer a remarkable fight, accomplishing so much in the seven years after being given his six month “sentence.” The esteem in which he was held within the game was marked by silences – and rounds of applause – before last weekend’s World Cup matches. There is also talk of renaming the code’s main individual award, the Man Of Steel, as the Steve Prescott Award. Such has been his inspirational role over the last seven years that there would be few voices raised against that.

Stephen Prescott, rugby league footballer and charity worker: born St Helens 26 December 1973; MBE 2010; married Linzi (two sons); died Oxford 9 November 2013.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup