Rugby League: International dies of heart attack aged 33

ROY POWELL, one of rugby league's most respected players, has died suddenly at the age of 33.

Powell, capped 19 times by Great Britain between 1985 and 1991, suffered what is thought to have been a heart attack on his way to training at Rochdale Hornets yesterday and was pronounced dead on arriving at hospital.

A hard-working second-row and latterly prop forward, Powell made his name with Leeds, later moving to Bradford, Featherstone and Batley. This winter he joined Hornets, who have now lost two players in swift succession, following the death two months ago of Karl Marriott, also from a heart attack, at the age of 28.

Powell, who was given the nickname Bruno because of his likeness to the boxer, was one of the fittest players of his generation as well as one of the best-liked. Hugely popular at Leeds, he was taken by one of his coaches there, Peter Fox, to Bradford, where he held together an ageing pack until he became one of the casualties of a mass clear-out under the new coach Brian Smith in 1995.

That was the end of his career in the top division, but he lost none of his enthusiasm for the game. At Batley, he had helped his old friend, Deryck Fox, with the coaching and was to do the same at Rochdale.

"He would have made a good coach, because he never lost his temper," said his mentor, Peter Fox, yesterday. "I used to play hell with him, telling him that if he'd had a fraction of my aggression he'd have been a world-beater - but it just wasn't in him.

"He was a smashing lad who would do anything for anybody. On the field he would forage forever. Whenever you needed him, he was there. He was a fantastic worker, but he could also release the ball - something he developed later in his career."

Although he was in the wrong places at the wrong times to win honours at club level - the Trans-Pennine Cup with Batley last season was an exception - he had some memorable days in Test match rugby, none better than the one in Australia in 1988. The Great Britain touring party, 2-0 down in the series and badly hit by injuries, was being pilloried by a hostile Australian press.

Powell was part of the Great Britain pack that broke a 10-year drought by beating Australia 26-12 in Sydney, a win that ranks alongside the Rorke's Drift Test in 1914 and the 1958 Battle of Brisbane as British rugby league highpoints of tours Down Under.

Great Britain teams looked incomplete without him for more than half a decade, with his wholehearted approach to training and touring almost as big an asset as his appetite for work on the field. His approachability also made him one of the most popular senior players with younger hopefuls coming into the squad, whom he was always eager to help develop their own abilities.

Powell kept his feet on the ground by continuing in his trade as a plasterer in his native Dewsbury for most of his professional playing career. He leaves a widow, Helen, and two children, four-year-old Lewis and Melissa, seven months old.

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