Former St Helens RL doctor John Hughes dies aged 59

John Hughes, who was Saints' club doctor for almost two decades, has died at the age of 59.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:14 pm
Dr Hughes at work

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, and 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 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, and on standby in case of serious injury.

''The physio at the time, 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,” added 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 Saints.

John’s family attended the Grand Final and wore items from his kit collection in tribute to ‘The Doc.’

Condolences are sent to John’s family: his partner Gwen, mother, Judith and brothers Chris and Nick at this sad time.