Rugby League: Vox Pop - As Wigan say farewell to Central Park, old stars roll back the years

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The Independent Online

PLAYER 1953-67

I enjoyed every minute that I had at Central Park. I had a wonderful time there, but the try that I always think about was one against Workington - I don't know what season it would have been. We were winning 46-0 and they kicked deep along the Douglas side, toward the scoreboard end. I picked it up and I heard the crowd say "Make it 50, Billy." Anyway, I went the whole length of the field and scored. It's the try I've always remembered, but I have memories of every game I played there.


PLAYER 1955-68

It's not a good memory. In a replayed Cup tie against Leeds in 1960, I was sent off with Jack Fairbank five minutes from time - the only time I was ever sent off. It was on a Wednesday afternoon, because there were no floodlights. We didn't know how many would be there, but there were 43,000. Mind you, the previous year we were playing St Helens and the secretary came into the changing-rooms to say there might be a slight delay. There were 47,000 that day - a record that still stands - but we regularly played with 35,000.


PLAYER 1982-91, COACH 1994-97

When I first came to Wigan, I was told the club was a sleeping giant and it was great to be a part of it, with the gates just going up and up. But perhaps my best memory as a player was coming back for a game against Castleford, just to help out. I scored a try and got a standing ovation from the crowd, so that was pretty special. During my time as a coach the day when we beat St Helens to win the championship stands out. We won everything that year, so it was a great feeling.


PLAYER 1983-1997

I think the Manly game sticks out in everyone's memory. It was just a totally special evening. There were 37,000 in Central Park that night but it felt like 137,000. Even the St Helens supporters seemed to be behind us that night. It was so long since we had beaten Australia at anything that any local rivalries were put on one side for the night. And it was 13 English lads who beat them, so that made it even better. I've a lot of great memories from Central Park, but that's the best.


COACH 1989-93, 1997-99

I remember the first time I went into the old boardroom, which looked out over the pitch. It brought it home to me just how much tradition there was about the place. Nothing seemed to have changed anywhere on the ground for about 100 years, so that you could genuinely say to someone like Jason Robinson that he was sitting where Billy Boston used to sit in the same changing-room. On the pitch, something like Martin Offiah's 10 tries against Leeds in 1992 takes some beating.


PLAYER 1988-95, CH EXEC 1997-98

The run-in to the title in 1991, when we seemed to be playing every other day. We played Widnes on a Tuesday, there were almost 30,000 there and I scored a try from Andy Platt's pass. Two days later we came back from 16-2 down to draw 18-all with Bradford and then we won it at Leeds on the Saturday. I remember the match against the Brisbane Broncos the following year as pretty scary. A punch-up broke out after five or ten minutes and my heart was pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.