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Happy Birthday Gus Risman would've been 100 today

21st March 2011, 07:17

Happy Birthday Gus Risman would've been 100 today

One of Wales Rugby League's greats Gus Risman was born 100 years ago

One of Wales Rugby League's greats - Gus Risman - was born 100 years ago today.

Gus is joint 9th in the all time Wales appearances list with 18, scoring 5 tries and 6 goals but his playing record goes far deeper than that.

Martyn Sadler, owner of League Publications Ltd who produce Rugby League Express and Rugby League World, wrote in last Friday's Crusaders v Catalan programme, proposing that a trophy should be named in his honour. Here is what Martyn had to say...

 

One of the greatest figures in the history of Rugby League was Gus Risman.

Gus, a descendant of Latvian immigrants, was born in Cardiff on 21 March 1911. This Monday will be the centenary of his birth.

As a youngster he played rugby union, but he was offered a trial by Salford and signed for them in 1929, making his debut for the club on 31 August that year.

Gus would go on to enjoy extraordinary success as a Rugby League player, winning 17 Great Britain caps and playing until the age of 43. The latter years of his career were with Workington Town, a club that was newly formed after the Second World War, and he captained them at Wembley at the age of 41 when they won the Challenge Cup in 1952.

He toured Australia in 1932, 1936 and in 1946, as captain of the ‘Indomitables', when Great Britain sailed to Australia on the aircraft carrier Indomitable.

Gus, who died in October 1994 at the age of 83, was one of the original seven inductees into the Rugby League Hall of Fame when it was established in 1988.

Those are the very bare details of a wonderful career.

But there is something else that has direct relevance to today's game between the Crusaders and Catalans, and that I think both clubs should explore.

Gus Risman, a Welshman, was one of the early pioneers of Rugby League in France. In 1934 he took his Salford team on a tour of France to help the fledgling French Rugby League, which had broken away from the French Rugby Union after the latter was suspended from the then Five Nations rugby union competition for veiled professionalism.

Salford, dubbed ‘Les Diables Rouges' (the Red Devils) by the eager French public, played six matches in two weeks, including a game against the Catalans, which they won 41-16, but which is why we now have the Catalans, 77 years later, playing a Super League game in North Wales.

So, given that the Crusaders and Catalans are, so far, the only non-English teams in the Super League competition, wouldn't it be great to commemorate Gus's centenary by creating a trophy in his honour, to be played for by the two clubs each time they meet. Perhaps we could call it the Gus Risman Shield.

And the great thing is that Gus's son Bev, who was himself a Great Britain captain in the 1968 World Cup, is the current President of the Rugby Football League. Although I've not consulted him about this article, I'm sure that his family would be honoured to honour his father in this way.

Given the fact that Gus was a Welshman who had so much influence on the early history of Rugby League in France, linking his name to this fixture in perpetuity would give it a massive boost, I'm quite certain.

 

Wales - Most Appearances

1 WATSON, Ian  27
2 SULLIVAN, Jim  26
3 BRIERS, Lee  20
  HARRIS, Iestyn  20
  JAMES, Jordan  20
  MATHIAS, Roy  20
  SULLIVAN, Anthony  20
8 FRANCIS, Bill  19
9 EDWARDS, Alan  18
  GIBSON, Damian  18
  RISMAN, Gus  18