By STEVE FOX
Charlie Middlehurst (3 March 1946 – 4 September 2022)
Charlie Middlehurst, who has passed away aged 76, played professionally for ten years with Leigh, Warrington and (briefly) Widnes, but may be best remembered by many for his involvement in Amateur Rugby League that covered more than half a century.
Born in Widnes in 1946, he played junior and amateur rugby for the Lowerhouse and Derby Arms clubs, picking up Lancashire County honours along the way as a hooker who had a knack for winning his fair share of possession from the scrums.
In 1965, Charlie turned professional with Leigh and it was the start of an eight-year stint at Hilton Park that brought him 31 first-team appearances. It was during this time that he also began his association with Simms Cross ARLFC, being a founder member at the club’s creation in 1969.
John Stringer was club secretary at Leigh in the 1970s and was effusive in his praise.
“Charlie was a brilliant lad and a very underrated player,” he said.
“He was really popular around the club during his playing days and I was very upset when this news reached me. He was one of those players who would fit in anywhere for the team – I saw him turn out for Leigh at second-row, loose forward and even stand-off, despite him once being described by Tommy Sale as the perfect shape for a hooker.”
In all he made 31 appearances for Leigh, scoring one try and two goals.
Charlie moved to Warrington on a free transfer in September 1973, reuniting with coach Alex Murphy and he made 18 appearances in what was a highly successful era for the Wire. He was also a regular in the reserves at Wilderspool, winning the Lancashire knockout competition in 1973/74 and lifting the Lancashire League title as unbeaten champions during the following campaign.
In all he made 18 appearances for Warrington, scoring a try and six goals.
Charlie concluded his professional career with a single game for his home-town team, Widnes, in December 1975, without troubling the scorer.
Thereafter, he continued his connection with Simms Cross as a player, coach and committee member, contributing to Simmies’ rise as a major power in the amateur game, with a reputation as a club that also produced many young players for the professional ranks.
Remembered by colleagues and friends as a reliable ball-winner, a skilful ball-handler in the loose and as a funny and loyal friend off the field, Charlie came from a family steeped in Rugby League. His uncle, Charlie Reynolds, played for Widnes at Wembley in 1950 and his brother Chris, nephew Gary and cousin Peter Middlehurst all played professionally.
Charlie is survived by his partner Noreen and by his children Lee and Donna and his grandchildren Kennedy, Finn, Cooper, Alice and Jack.
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