RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (3) – DOUG DAVIES Pt 3

Within such an illustrious group of players, everyone there had to have certain strengths and talents which supplemented and complimented the requirements of the team as a whole.  As he has already divulged, Doug’s forte was undoubtedly his tackling, which he was more than happy to supply throughout any game in order to keep the team in contention until such times as the speedmen were able to cut loose and run in the tries.

Of the players alongside whom he played, Doug immediately mentions Colin Dixon, with whom he was extremely friendly.

“Colin was a lovely man, and my mate.  We even went on holiday together with our respective families, down to Cornwall, and on the way back we called off for him to see his mother, in Cardiff.  We all got on so well together.  They were lovely times.”

Another player who commanded Doug’s respect, as much as a person as the marvellous player he was, was winger Maurice Richards.

“I had a wonderful relationship with Maurice.  He was a quiet person whom you could speak to with the greatest of ease, and he was one of those people who you really do remember all about them.

“As a player, he had speed but also great acceleration and footwork.  When you are just an ordinary runner it is an effort to actually do it, but these people with speed seem not only to do it effortlessly, but they also seem to float over the ground.

David Watkins had a persona about him which influenced others right across the field, but also permeated into the dressing-room and other areas of the club.

“He was not just a player but like an extra coach as well, as he was someone to look up to.  He was always very relaxed, and if he said that the day was Tuesday, then it was Tuesday.  He just commanded respect.”

Equally so, Doug remembers Watkins’s co-centre, Chris Hesketh, as one of the finest athletes he ever played alongside.

“He could run, side-step, tackle, and pass – in short he had everything.  I thought Chris Hesketh was an incredible player.  I was delighted for him in all he achieved in the game as Salford captain and as captain of Great Britain.   He was a great footballer and a good friend of mine, though on the downside he wasn’t as good a singer as me!

“We all know that we are here for just a short time, and if in that time we can make friends and share with them their successes, that is life and what makes it worthwhile.”

It was the half back pairing of Banner and Gill that he believes was instrumental in staging so many of the team’s thrilling attacking forays.

“Peter Banner was absolutely superb, and his service from the base of the scrum was second to none with those long quick passes which got the ball away with such accuracy.  Kenny Gill was a marvellous stand-off, and he did a tremendous amount of organising.  He knew exactly where he wanted individuals to stand, and once they were in position, we all knew that he would make it all happen.

“They had a complete knowledge of each other, and would know what the other was going to do, long before he did it.  It is that sort of understanding which binds a team together.  In much the same way, other pairings, such as centre and wing, need that same knowledge of each other’s likely move, and we seemed to have that across the field.”

Doug also had the good fortune of playing during the period in which Paul Charlton occupied the full back role with such aplomb.

“Paul Charlton, at fullback, was exceptional.  He had pace, vision, good hands both under the high ball and in attack, incredible acceleration, and the ability to isolate an attacker and then crash-tackle him to snuff out the danger completely.”

Alongside Colin Dixon in the second row, Doug readily recalls the contribution to the team of Mike Coulman.

“He was a great fellow both as a player and as a person, and what a powerful man he really was.  I was never frightened of anybody, but I do think that if Mike, uncharacteristically, had turned on me then I would have had a problem.

“In reality, though, he was a gently giant, but on the pitch his power was second to none, and he could run as well.  For a man of fifteen and a half stone to have the pace that he had was incredible.  He could show the speed of any back.

“The club even had to have shorts specially made for him because of the size of his legs. “

The coach at the time was Cliff Evans, who had future coach, Les Bettinson, as his assistant.

“Each of them had certain attributes which went well together, and in fact, they were equally a great team, in their way, as the players were on the field.  While Les worked primarily with the backs, he did nevertheless have some input with the forwards.

“Cliff was a schoolteacher by profession, and he certainly was a god communicator.  I had the greatest respect for him and respected his authority as coach of the side.  I always endeavoured to follow through his suggestions and instructions as well as I possibly could.

“It was a real pleasure to play under such able and knowledgeable a coach as Cliff.”

Part 1 – His Early Rugby League Career

Part 2 – His Playing Days At The Willows

Part 3 – His Teammates And Coaches

Part 4 – His Post Salford Career In The Game