RIP Joe Egan Jr

A stalwart Saints’ hooker from the 1960s, Joe Egan, has passed away at the age of 76.

Heritage Number #802

Born: 15th February 1944

Died: 9th May 2020

Born in Wigan, Joe’s father was the famous Wigan RLFC and Leigh hooker of the same name, who had won virtually every honour as a player and coach. Indeed, his father was a helping hand, as young Joe followed in his footsteps as a hooker, starring with the Wigan Schoolboys team.

Yet his career was to take a slightly different path – over Billinge Hill, to be precise – when he made his senior debut for St.Helens R.F.C as an 18-year-old in the 13-6 victory over Leeds on 8 December 1962 at Knowsley Road. His fellow front-rowers that afternoon were Bill Major and Cliff Watson.

A regular in the A team, Joe had to wait patiently until the latter stages of the 1964-65 season before he was called up for the seniors once again, including a marvellous 16-8 victory against Wigan at Central Park on 16th April 1965.

One of his most memorable moments in the red vee came against the visiting New Zealand tourists at Knowsley Road on 15th September 1965, when the Saints ran them ragged to the tune of 28-7.

Competition for the hooking roles was fierce and Joe’s first team opportunities were limited. He was in competition with Bob Dagnall, Leslie Greenall, Bill Sayer, Bob Burdell and Tony Karalius during his time at the club. He was essentially an A team regular who was always a capable deputy when required and never let his team-mates down.

Joe was selected on the bench for the re-played Lancashire Cup final against Warrington, on 2nd December 1967, but was not called upon during the eighty minutes, as Saints won 13-10. Veteran hooker Bill Sayer was the occupant of the number nine jersey. Ironically, Joe’s father was the coach of the Warrington team at the time!

Saints’ fan Adrian Lawrenson recalls the latter stages of his Knowsley Road career: “When Cliff Evans took over and wanted a more sophisticated style of play, Joe was a back-row substitute for the coach’s first match, at Barrow on 15 January 1968, which indicated that the technically astute Evans saw something in Joe as a play-maker. However, Evans turned to Austin Rhodes who he signed from Swinton to use as his play-maker.”

After a final full appearance in the number nine jersey at Wilderspool, on 29th August 1969 in a 14-7 success, Joe was later snapped up by Blackpool Borough, who already had a cache of former Saints’ players at their disposal, such as Terry Loughlin, Tim Pickup and Allan Bishop. The fee? £500, clearly a bargain, given his experience of 18 full appearances, 8 as substitute and an additional 16 times on the bench when he was not called upon for the fray.

Joe became an integral member of a Blackpool team that generally struggled in the lower reaches of the league, but occasionally punched well above its weight. Joe gravitated to the front-row and played in the remarkable Players No6 trophy final against Castleford at the Willows in 1976-77, which the Yorkshiremen only just won 25-15. He converted all his team’s tries, another string to his bow, including one that he scored himself.

The fact that Joe was seven years at Saints in such a successful era indicates that he undoubtedly had plenty to offer as a player and he was a loyal clubman, facets of his career that he undoubtedly displayed at Blackpool Borough. The fact that his position was a specialised one and the competition for places was too strong at Knowsley Road probably went against him.

A keen golfer, Joe worked in insurance and at various times lived in Wigan and at Prenton on the Wirral with his wife, Linda, before moving to South Eastern Spain in 2002.

Everyone at St.Helens R.F.C extend their sympathy to Joe’s family at this sad time.

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