ADAM Swift’s elation at being chosen to make his Saints’ first-team debut in the Challenge Cup tie at Widnes on Saturday was tinged with sadness – his grandfather, Harold, having died on the eve of the match.
But the Swift family insisted the 19-year-old winger (pictured) didn’t pull out of the squad, knowing it would have been the wish of his grandad, who was awarded the MBE in 2006 for his services to amateur rugby league.
Saints acting head coach Mike Rush said: “Adam lost his grandfather, who had been a massive part of his life and a huge part of rugby league in the town, on Friday.
“It was a massive and brave decision by Adam to play. I wasn’t going to try and get into the back of his mind to see how he felt, but I spoke to him on the morning of the match and also talked to his father and both insisted he would play.
“To be fair, I thought the kid was fantastic and only wished his grandad had been there to see him make his debut – he would have been so proud.
“And I thought Adam was fantastic. He has got super feet and is a real athlete, and if he keeps his feet firmly on the ground, and works hard like a lot of youngsters at the club, he will get the chance to go as far as he wishes.”
Grandfather Harold had been an integral part of the Blackbrook ARLC, where he was chairman and helped nurture youngsters like present Saints skipper Paul Wellens, James Roby and James Graham.
He first joined the club as a 26-year-old in 1953 – Coronation year – and it’s quite poignant that more than 50 years later the Queen Elizabeth awarded him his MBE.
Harold was also a founder member of the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA), and helped create history when he was appointed team manager for their first tour to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Rush said: “I played at Blackbrook myself for nearly 12 years, and had known Harold for about 28 years.
“He was an absolute gentleman and will be solely missed by all his family and friends, as well as the sporting community of St Helens.”
BARLA chairman Spen Allison said: “I was a personal friend of Harold and I’ll miss him greatly.”