It is sad to report that another of Saints’ former players, scrum-half Tommy Finn, has passed away at the age of 87 after a long illness.
St Helens RFC Heritage Number #705
Born St Helens 18th December 1933
Died Billinge 21st May 2021
Tommy Finn was a prominent member of the St Austins School team in the early days after the second world war. On field clashes with near neighbours Grange Park were eagerly anticipated and played in front of large crowds.
Norman Owen was a winger with Grange Park and remembers just how prominent Tommy was for the opposition: “He was what you would call a real hard knock, strong and fast for his size, with a terrific hand-off. He came from Upland Road and Tommy was one of three brothers who all played rugby.”
It was no surprise to see the Lancashire schoolboy representative signed by the Saints and he became a member of a strong A team just before coach Jim Sullivan took over the coaching reins at Knowsley Road.
He made his debut on Christmas Day 1951 at Leigh, when his stand-off was another local product, Jimmy Honey. Saints lost 3-13 that day and Tommy made 8 appearances in total during the 1951-52 campaign. His last match in the red and white jersey was against Hull at the Boulevard on 5th April 1952 when the visitors lost 7-14. Tommy’s stand-off partner was DuggieGreenall, with Jimmy Honey on the wing.
Hull must have noted the potential of Saints’ young number 7. Fast forward to December 1954 and as a result of a surplus of half-backs at Knowsley Road, he was signed by the East Yorkshire club, after initially being placed on the transfer list at £500. He went on to make 375 appearances in just over ten years for the Airlie Birds, scoring 132 tries. Tommy played at Wembley, twice, although on the losing side and helped the Humbersiders to two title triumphs in 1955-56 and 1957-58.
In retrospect, Tommy’s departure could have been seen as damaging to Saints’ future team-building plans, yet a few years later the St Austins ‘rugby academy’ went on to produce two more half-backs who would more than make their mark on Saints’ history: Alex Murphy and Austin Rhodes.
There was always a reminder of Tommy for television viewers in the 1960s, when he was featured in the opening sequences of BBCs Saturday afternoon Grandstand programme. Tommy is one of many rugby league stars who have been produced not just in the Thatto Heath area, but in our town over the years and gives us all a tremendous sense of civic pride.
Everyone at St Helens RFC send their condolences to Tommy’s family at this sad time.