A Knowsley Road legend and the widow of a St Helens-born and bred Wigan superstar of yesteryear have been given their first insight into a piece of artwork which will be unveiled at Wembley in 2015 to celebrate the Rugby League’s long and proud association with the national stadium.
Alex Murphy - one of five former players to form part of a special statue - was joined at the Yorkshire studio of sculptor Stephen Winterburn by Doreen Ashton, widow of former Wigan centre Eric Ashton who went on to coach his home-town club, St Helens, as well as becoming a director and chairman.
Eric also forms part of the statue along with former Wigan flyers Billy Boston and Martin Offiah, and the late Welshman Gus Risman, who spent the best part of an illustrious between the Two World Wars at Salford.
The former players and their relatives have already played a big part in the creation of the statue, which is being produced in association with the sport’s charity, Rugby League Cares, and were able see the first full figure in the final piece, as well as 13-inch and 23-inch maquettes.
Alex, a Challenge Cup winner with St Helens, Leigh and Warrington, said: “I truly think this is one of the biggest things in the history of our sport and certainly in my long career.
“It is an honour to be recognised and chosen to represent many great players who have enjoyed and graced Wembley over the years.”
Doreen said: “Eric would have been so proud had he been here today.”
Billy said: “It was fantastic to see how the sculptor has turned the images he showed us last year into what is going to be a stunning statue.
“It was a real honour to be selected to be involved in the statue and having seen what it’s going to look like I’m humbled. I am stunned by the size and I think it really captures all that is great about rugby league.”
The five figures were selected by a public vote and a process involving a number of specially-convened selection panels comprising rugby league journalists.