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Farewell to former Saints Doc’

St Helens R.F.C. is sad to hear the passing of former Club Doctor, John Hughes at the age of 59.

Dr John Hughes
Born: Widnes, 31st March 1962
Died: St Helens, 26th September 2021

The success of a top sports team relies on many people, not just the players out on the field, but those who are essential members of the backroom staff. The Club Doctor is a particularly important role, whose presence at training and on match days is vital in the assessment and treatment of injury.

John Hughes was the Saints’ Club Doctor for almost 20 years and it is sad to report that he has passed away at the age of 59.

The eldest of three brothers, rugby was certainly in John’s DNA. His schoolmaster father, Ted, born in St Helens, was a stalwart of Widnes RUFC and Liverpool RUFC a mobile hooker who played for Lancashire, North West Counties and Combined Services, selected for three England trials.

A former Wade Deacon pupil, John went to Widnes Sixth Form College and then to Medical School in Liverpool in 1980. He was a prop forward in rugby union with Widnes, but always had a soft spot for the Saints and as a student was taken to the club by the existing Club Doctor, Dave Thomas and gained valuable experience in a sporting context.

John finished Medical School in 1985 and became a GP, practising in Huyton and Kirkby until he got early retirement six years ago. By the late eighties, however, he had taken over as Club Doctor at Knowsley Road where his skill and expertise were much valued.

“He would be in the dugout during a match,” recalls his brother Chris, “on standby in case of serious injury. The Physio, Jeanette Smith would do most of the on-field stuff. It was an important role for sure…there were no protocols in place for head injuries like today, for example. When the Blood Bin came in, I always joked that he would have to speed up his stitching technique!”

John also had another interest and was Chief Medical Officer for motorsport rallies across the UK, but his commitment to Saints was very important to him. He was also invited to become the Doctor for the Tonga team that participated in the 1995 World Cup, on the recommendation of Saints’ Coach Mike McLennan and his assistant Frankie Barrow. “I think that riding on the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with the Prince of Tonga was certainly up there with his more memorable moments in rugby league,” adds Chris.

In later years John’s eyesight declined but he still managed cycle rides for the Steve Prescott Foundation, a way of keeping in touch with the game – and the people – he loved. He also brought current Club Doctor Simon Perritt to St Helens R.F.C.

John’s family attended the Grand Final and wore items from his kit collection in tribute to ‘The Doc.’ Sonny Nickle, who watched the match from the Stretford End, recalled being patched up by John on several occasions during his time at Knowsley Road!

Everyone at the Club sends our condolences to John’s family: his partner Gwen, mother, Judith and brothers Chris and Nick at this sad time.

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