Obituary: Eric Prescott – The best uncapped Rugby League star

ERIC PRESCOTT (June 21, 1948 – August 21, 2023)

ERIC PRESCOTT was a fiery and accomplished back-row forward for St Helens, Salford, hometown club Widnes and Runcorn Highfield who won three league titles and a Challenge Cup and was considered one of the best uncapped players of his generation.

A Lancashire representative on eleven occasions who also won the Premiership and BBC2 Floodlit Trophy twice each as well as the Lancashire Cup, he was the father of Steve Prescott MBE, the former St Helens, Hull, Wakefield, England, Ireland and Lancashire fullback who died aged 39 from a rare kind of stomach cancer in 2013.

Eric Prescott, who has died aged 75, played rugby union for Widnes-based ICI before joining St Helens ahead of the 1968-69 season, when he was 20.

His early appearances included one from the bench as Saints were beaten 7-4 at Wigan in the Floodlit Trophy final, before the six-footer came to prominence when coach Cliff Evans picked him on the wing (at the expense of Frank Wilson) for the 1970 Championship Final against Leeds.

Prescott responded by scoring two spectacular tries as his side triumphed 24-12 at Odsal.

Having returned to the back row, he also played in the Lancashire Cup final loss to Leigh and Floodlit Trophy final defeat at Leeds in 1970-71, but missed out on that season’s Championship Final success against Wigan.

In 1971-72, Prescott featured as Saints won the Floodlit Trophy, beating Rochdale Hornets 8-2 at Knowsley Road, but suffered double disappointment when he didn’t play in either the Challenge Cup final victory over Leeds or follow-up Championship Final defeat by the Headingley side.

That was a major factor in him seeking a move after 85 appearances (20 tries and three goals), and in September 1972, ambitious Salford, by then coached by Evans, splashed out £13,500 to take him to The Willows.

It proved to be money well spent, for alongside the likes of Keith Fielding and David Watkins, and with assistant Les Bettinson having become coach in place of illness-hit Evans, Prescott, generally at loose-forward, helped Salford win the title in both 1973-74, when his former club Saints were pipped by a point, and 1975-76.

He also played in each of Salford’s four successive Lancashire Cup final appearances between 1972-73, when Swinton were seen off 25-11 at Wilderspool, and 1975-76 (Wigan and Widnes (twice) won the others), and appeared in the Premiership final defeat by St Helens in 1975-76.

In 1974-75, Prescott was a Floodlit Trophy winner for a second time as Warrington were beaten 10-5 in a Wilderspool replay following a 0-0 draw at The Willows.

After 273 Salford appearances (46 tries, seven goals and a field-goal), he was snapped up by Widnes for £20,000 early in the 1980-81 campaign, and at the end of it, realised his dream of playing at Wembley as Hull KR were beaten 18-9 in the Challenge Cup final.

Prescott returned to the national stadium twelve months later for the 14-14 draw with Hull, and also played in the 18-9 final replay defeat at Elland Road.

He won two Premiership finals with Widnes, both against Hull at Headingley (23-8 in 1981-82 and 22-10 in 1982-83) and lost two Lancashire Cup finals – against Leigh in 1981-82 and Barrow in 1983-84.

Soon after the latter, and having made 127 appearances (19 tries and one field-goal), Prescott returned for a second stint at Salford, who were fighting an ultimately unsuccessful battle for First Division survival.

He played 18 times with five further tries, before joining Runcorn in March 1985.

Prescott played 84 times (one try) for Runcorn, making his last appearance in April 1989 at the age of 40.

Prescott leaves a wife Pat, son Neil, daughter Suzanne, daughter-in-laws Linzi and Jill, and grandchildren Taylor, Amelia, Koby and Ruby.

Details of his funeral have not yet been announced.