THE club has received the sad news that Bill Bretherton has passed away.
The second rower played for Saints from 1950-56, making 158 appearances and scoring 10 tries.
He was 84.
Bill was born on March 23, 1930 in Pemberton, Wigan and attended St Marks Primary School and Pemberton Senior School before signing for Saints from Triangle Valve Juniors on June 7 1950.
His debut in the first team was in the 47 points to 10 victory over Whitehaven in December, 1950 but he spent most of his first season learning the ropes in the `A` team, making just five appearances in the second row scoring one try in the 31 points to 3 victory over York (24/4/51).
Bill was a tough character who revelled in the cut and thrust of the forwards battle on the rugby league field. He was a hard tackler and a strong runner with the ball in his hands.
In his schoolboy days he played soccer for Wigan boys at Centre Half but gave up the round ball to become a physical training instructor with the Royal Artillery. Whilst in the Army he played Rugby Union and upon discharge joined Worsley RL Club where he played in the front row and second row. He played for Lancashire and England as an amateur.
He developed a great reputation for his natural strength which he displayed in various arenas notably the wrestling ring, athletics field events and on the stage. On the latter occasion Bill was invited by a `strong woman` at Wigan Hippodrome to bend some six-inch nails. To the astonishment of the audience Bill bent the nails as if they were made of rubber.
In 1946, Bill also collected a medal from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society for “recovering a boy who was in imminent danger of drowning in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.” Such was the modesty of Bill that his mother never knew anything about his bravery until the police called at his home some two days later.
Bill signed for the Saints as they were emerging as a force in the early 1950s. Under the tutorship of Jim Sullivan, Bill developed as one of the most powerful second rows in the game. In the 1951/52 season Bill played most of the games in the prop position scoring three tries in the process.
In the next season Saints remained undefeated in away matches in their best ever league campaign. As well as finishing top of the league by dropping only 6 points from 36 matches, the Club lifted the Championship by defeating Halifax by 24 points to 14 at Maine Road.
Saints won the Lancashire League Championship by 10 points but lost the Lancashire Cup Final to Leigh and the Challenge Cup Final to Huddersfield.
Bill Bretherton was in the second row for this glory season ending the year by playing 48 out of 50 matches (Top of the appearances charts for that season). Bill managed three tries that season but his great contribution was the steel he gave to the Saints pack.
The following season he teamed up with George Parsons in the second row to help defeat his hometown club in the 1953 Lancashire Cup Final by 16 points to 8. Again Bill was virtually ever-present that season as he scored three tries from 41 appearances in the engine room of the second row.
In Bill’s last full season for the Saints he made 20 appearances for the club in the second row as competition for places in the pack reached an all-time high. Players such as Karalius, Delves, Blan, Garbler and Silcock vied for a couple of back row positions.
Bill’s final appearance for the club came on the seventh of January 1956 in the 48 points to 2 victory over Salford. He had only played just seven games at prop all season when he moved to Wigan to continue his career successfully with his hometown club.
In his time at Knowsley Road Bill gained one cap for Lancashire.
Like all our past players, we strived to stay in contact with Bill when he left the club and he was a guest of the 1953 cup celebrations last season. An event he enjoyed very much.
The Club expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Bill
Thanks to the Saints Heritage Society and Dave Dooley for the information in this piece.