With one week to go until St.Helens R.F.C.’s 150th anniversary date of its founding, we have been looking at just some of our storied heritage as part of a 15-day buildup!
For Day 8 of the Saints’ historical highlights, we shine the spotlight on a forwards stalwart – Billy Briers.
no small cat – he was a fearsome rugby league player who had some speed in his locker too.
Born in Thatto Heath in 1875, Billy was a blacksmith’s striker at Lea Green Colliery and joined the St Helens Recreation Club, the other St Helens team of that era (you can read more on the early days of our club here).
After a couple of seasons with the Recs team, ‘Kitty’ wished to join some of his friends at St.Helens (our club) and so he did. Following the split of the rugby codes and the formation of the Northern Union, his official debut came in the Saints’ first official Northern Union game on the 7th of September 1895.
Over the next sixteen years, Briers would go on to make 463 match appearances, scoring 109 tries, and be part of many huge firsts for the Club such as playing in the first Challenge Cup Final in 1897 for St.Helens.
‘Kitty’ was a part of the first Saints side to ever lift a trophy in April 1900, beating Runcorn in extra time to lift the South-West Lancashire & Border Towns Cup – our club’s first official honour since the split to the Northern Union!
Serving as captain of the Saints too, Briers enjoyed what was considered a long rugby career in those days, playing 78 consecutive matches between 1907 and 1910. From reports, it seems he could have made it as a footballer too, with brilliant dribbling skills on the ball! Billy was the last member of the playing squad left from the team that featured in the Saints’ first official match back in 1895 and finished his career in 1910.
A remarkable servant to the Saints from our early years.
St.Helens has been blessed over the last 150 years with plenty of great forwards such as Hall of Fame members; Alan Prescott, Eric Chisnall, Dick Huddart, and Cliff Watson – that’s before considering more modern-day men such as James Graham or Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
We’re fast approaching the Club asking fans for their own all-time greatest Saints XIII sides – and we would love to know who makes your forward pack!