Death of St Helens great Austin Rhodes aged 81

Austin Rhodes
Austin Rhodes
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One of Saints' greats, Austin Rhodes, has died at the age of 81.


A talented full back, he starred for his home town club during two spells at Knowsley Road and was a prolific points scorer - standing third in the the all-time club list of points accumulators with 1,921 from 97 tries and 815 goals.

Austin Rhodes playing for Saints at Wembley in 1956

Austin Rhodes playing for Saints at Wembley in 1956

Austin - a son of Thatto Heath - enjoyed an illustrious career in which he earned Great Britain caps and while he will be chiefly remembered for his time at Knowsley Road, he also enjoyed stints with both Leigh and Swinton.

He also wrote a highly readable and informative autobiography, 'A Lad from Donkey Common,' and until his death had a razor-sharp memory and love of Rugby League.

The career paths of Austin - a former St Austin's pupil - and the legendary Alex Murphy followed a similar path, two of Thatto Heath's most famous sporting sons whose talents flourished at Knowsley Road.

Austin, who made his debut for Saints in the mid-1950s, was a key member of the club side which lifted the Challenge Cup for the first time after a 13-2 victory over Halifax at Wembley, kicking two goals.

Saints v Wigan on Good Friday 1960 and Saints full back Austin Rhodes passes to Len Hammil as Dick Huddart and Vince Karalius look on

Saints v Wigan on Good Friday 1960 and Saints full back Austin Rhodes passes to Len Hammil as Dick Huddart and Vince Karalius look on

He was in prolific form the following season. His 365 points included a hat trick and six goals against Huddersfield, one try and 10 goals against Barrow and three tries and nine goals against Blackpool Borough.

His excellent ball distribution, reading of the game and reliable goal-kicking resulted in Rhodes being selected to travel to Australia for the 1957 World Cup where he gained his first cap for Great Britain. he was also a member of the 1960 World Cup squad that won the competition

In the following season Murphy donned the number 7 jersey and Austin played most of his football at stand off.

Austin featured notably in one of the greatest ever rugby league matches namely the 1959 Championship Final when he kicked 10 goals in the 44-22 victory over Hunslet. This haul took him to the top of the RL goal kicking charts for the season and repeated the feat in the following year as Saints lifted the Lancashire League title and finished the campaign on top of the league.

In the 1960/61 campaign Saints won the Lancashire Cup by defeating Swinton 15-9 with Austin playing a key role, scoring a try and kicking three goals.

The glorious 1961 Challenge Cup Final featured Austin centre stage again as he kicked three goals, one from the halfway line with his deadly accurate toe-ender style. The 12--6 victory over Wigan also witnessed Rhodes pulling off a brilliant cover tackle to deny the mighty Billy Boston from scoring in the corner.

In his last season in the first spell at Knowsley Road, Austin once again played a major part in the 1961 Lancashire Cup Final, landing five goals and scoring a try as part of a 25-9 victory over Swinton.

At the end of the campaign, he was transferred to Leigh as the Saints started to build a different looking team for the mid sixties gold rush.

After successful spells at Leigh and Swinton, Austin returned to the Saints in January 1968 to complete his career in style. He was on hand in the 1968 Lancashire Cup Final to help Saints secure a record 30-2 triumph over Oldham. His second spell at the club was curtailed on medical advice following a hip injury in training.