RIP Tony Karalius

Former Saints’ hooker, Tony Karalius, who made over 350 appearances for the club and was part of the famous 1976 Wembley win, has died aged 75.

Karalius joined from his hometown Widnes in January 1967. He made his Saints debut a month later and frequent appearances followed in those first two years before he finally dislodged veteran Bill Sayer from the number nine shirt in the 1969-70 season.

Brother of former Saint Vince Karalius, Tony was adept at winning the ball in competitive and often messy scrums. He possessed the full bag of tricks for play in the loose and loved an offload out of the tackle.

His vision and tactical nous from dummy half was a key starting point to Saints’ attacking game in the 1970s.

Although missing the 1970 Championship Final win over Leeds with injury, he won a winner’s medal 12 months later in the famous triumph over Wigan at Swinton.

Despite clocking up an eye-watering 49 matches in the 1971-72 season, in which he earned Great Britain and Lancashire call-ups, injury derailed his season end, denying him a place at Wembley in the win against Leeds.

After an unusual two-year barren silverware spell, a Saints team rippling with a talented back line and a mature pack were back in business during the 1974-75 season with Karalius a key component of a side that won the Division One title by a clear nine points.

1975-76 was another landmark season, with Karalius helping Saints to a trophy treble – the BBC Floodlit Trophy, Challenge Cup and Premiership.

But it was in the baking heat of Wembley where Karalius helped direct the veteran Saints pack to victory over the more youthful cup holders Widnes and earn a place in club folklore.

He was a real box of tricks that afternoon – helping see off his hometown club in what would be Saints last Wembley win for 20 years.

A fortnight later Karalius finished the domestic season in style with a try to beat champions Salford in the Premiership Trophy Final. He joined the rest of the Saints team on the tour to Australia to play Queensland and the first World Club Challenge against Eastern Suburbs.

The following year saw Karalius share his hooking duties with youngster Graham Liptrot, and often he reverted to the bench or back row where he remained an asset for Eric Ashton’s team.

He came off the bench  in the 1977 Premiership Trophy win over Warrington, which would be his last final success. He was also on the bench in the 1978 Wembley defeat by Leeds, but did not get on the field as Saints stuck with the same 13 for the full 80 minutes.

After 355 appearances and 26 tries for Saints he was sold to neighbours Wigan in October 1978.

Everyone at the club send condolences to the Karalius family at this sad time.

RIP Tony Karalius.

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