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Friday, 26 December 2014

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LORD OF THE WINGS

Ike Southward:  Ike was twice transferred for world record fees

ALONG with Tom Mitchell and Gus Risman, there is little doubt that Ike Southward is one of the three most significant figures in the history of Workington Town.

Certainly no one has given more to Town than Ike in such a variety of capacities from player to coach, from groundsman to director and most things in between.

It is as a truly great wingman that he will best be remembered, however.

Fast, direct and determined, Ike was an absolute terror to defences throughout the Rugby League playing world.

In a 17-year career which took in a couple of years with Oldham and a few months with Whitehaven, Ike Southward set and broke records, won the highest honours for his country and established a reputation as monumental as any Cumbrian who has played the game.

Born on August 15 1934, Ike made his name playing amateur Rugby League for Glasson Rangers before signing for Workington Town.

His first-team debut as an 18-year-old stand-off was inauspicious as Town went down 26-2 at Warrington on August 23 1952.

Thereafter, however, it was almost all good news.

Within two years he had made the first of the dozen appearances he would make for Cumberland in a county career which stretched over 13 years.

Oddly, his first and last games for the county were played as a centre, the rest in his normal position on the wing.

His county debut ended in a 27-0 mauling by Yorkshire, while his last game for Cumberland, on his home ground at Derwent Park, saw a famous 17-15 victory over the Australians on November 18 1967.

At club level Ike was sensational from the start.

In his second full season (1954/55) he bagged 33 tries for Town and won a Challenge Cup runners-up medals as Workington lost 21-12 to Barrow at Wembley.

On September 17 1955 against Blackpool Borough, Ike scored an amazing 33 points from seven tries and six goals.

Those seven tries remain a Town record almost half a century later.

By 1959 Ike was established as one of the game’s great attractions.

As a winger he was bracketed alongside Billy Boston and Mick Sullivan as the best of British in that position.

He was so outstanding that Oldham paid a world record transfer fee of £10,650 to obtain his services.

His Oldham debut brought him a try in a 39-13 victory over Barrow on March 21 1959.

In his only full season, 1959/60, with Oldham he scored 31 tries but never really settled in Lancashire.

His career at Watersheddings saw him pile up 54 tries in only 52 matches, including six in a cup tie against Walney Central.

He was transferred back to Workington Town who broke the world record again by buying him back for £11,002 10s, which was 50 shillings (£2.50) more than St Helens had recently paid to Wigan for Mick Sullivan.

Ike continued to play for Workington Town until 1968, making his last appearance in a 25-9 home victory over Swinton on October 5 1968.

His career with Town encompassed 375 games, in which he amassed 1,432 points from 274 tries and 305 goals.

His record of 274 tries for the club has never been beaten although, oddly enough,

even Ike never managed to match Johnny Lawrenson’s club record of 49 tries in a season set in 1951/52.

His best tally was 45 tries in 1957/58 when he also kicked 79 goals for a total of 293 points, another personal best.

Ike Southward’s true stature in the game can be gauged from his record at the very top level – representative and test match rugby.

His career at this level began on April 11 1956, when he replaced the suspended Billy Boston as Great Britain’s right-winger in an 18-10 victory over France in a floodlit international at Odsal.

Four days later he landed a couple of goals for English Services RL, who lost 18-10 to French Services in Marseilles.

His club-mate Andy Key was in the English pack.

Ike also represented the British Army at Twickenham in the inter-services Rugby Union tournament in March 1956. He scored both tries in a 6-3 win against the Navy and another in a 26-9 loss to the RAF.

Ike won 11 Great Britain test caps and was a British Lion on the tours of 1958 and 1962. He was a key member of the brilliant 1958 team which won the Ashes in Australia and had the rare distinction of scoring tries in all three tests.

He also played in the second and third tests of 1959 against the Aussies when the Ashes were retained, scoring a crucial try.

Perhaps the most revealing statistic as to Ike’s standing in the game lies in the fact that he is one of only six players in the history of the game to score 300 tries and 300 goals.

The other superstars who have achieved this feat are Jim Lomas (a fellow Cumbrian from Maryport), Jim Leytham, Eric Ashton, Neil Fox and Garry Schofield.

Ike’s career took in 486 games and yielded 1,840 points from 376 tries and 356 goals.

After finishing his career with Whitehaven in 1969, Ike subsequently coached both Whitehaven and Workington Town in the 1970s and was also once coach of Cumbria County.

This article was originally published in Robert Gate’s book 100 Cumberland Rugby League greats.

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