Obituary: Phil Jackson – The Ashes-winning Great Britain skipper

PHIL JACKSON (June 9, 1932 – July 20, 2022)

Phil Jackson was a Barrow legend who won a World Cup and two Ashes series with Great Britain and a Challenge Cup and a Lancashire Cup with his sole English club.

‘A Prince Among Centres’ – the title given to the 2005 biography of the popular Canada-born player who later settled in Australia, which was written by Keith Nutter and published in 2005 – he played for Barrow in their Willie Horne-inspired glory period of the 1950s.

Alongside legendary stand-off Horne and winger Jimmy Lewthwaite, another 1950s hero, Jackson, who has died aged 90, was one of the first three players, all Lions representatives, inducted into Barrow’s Hall of Fame on its launch in 2001.

Over the course of 29 Great Britain Test appearances (with nine tries) between 1954, when he made a scoring debut in the 17-8 win over France at Bradford, and 1958, he played in two World Cups, helping his side beat hosts France 16-12 in the final of the inaugural tournament in Paris in 1954.

In the group stage, he scored two tries as Australia were downed 28-13 at Lyon and one as New Zealand were seen off 26-6 at Bordeaux.

His second World Cup was in 1957, when the event took place on a round-robin basis and was won by hosts Australia.

And in 1956, he enjoyed his first Ashes success, with Australia beaten 21-0 at Wigan and 19-0 at Swinton either side of a 22-9 defeat at Bradford.

The Ashes triumph of 1958 must have been sweeter still, since it came on Australian soil and with Jackson switched to stand-off (playing alongside a teenage Alex Murphy) and skippering the side for their series-clinching 40-17 triumph at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Great Britain had lost the first Test 25-8 at the SCG but responded by winning 25-18 at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground.

Jackson also toured Australasia in 1954, when the Kangaroos won the Ashes 2-1 before Great Britain won the series against New Zealand by the same margin (He played in all six matches).

He also made one appearance for England – in the 33-16 defeat by Other Nationalities (the forerunner of the current Combined Nations All Stars) at Wigan in 1955.

While born in Montreal, Jackson was three when his family moved to Barrow, and his sporting prowess became clear while at school.

He was playing rugby union for the local Vickers club as a 15-year-old, and took up Rugby League professionally when Barrow snapped him up as an 18-year-old ahead of the 1950/51 season, which culminated in the 10-0 Challenge Cup Final defeat by Wigan.

Jackson was back at Wembley in 1955, and this time Barrow lifted the trophy, beating Workington Town 21-12.

That final, controlled by the supremely talented Horne, was probably the high point of sport in England’s far North-West, with the vast majority of the 66,513 crowd having travelled down to the capital from the two competing towns.

Earlier that season, Barrow had lifted the Lancashire Cup, defeating Oldham 12-2 in the final at Swinton.

The club also made the Challenge Cup Final in 1957, and while Jackson crossed for a try, his side lost 9-7 to Leeds.

He retired in 1960, having scored 89 tries in 225 Barrow appearances, then emigrated to Australia, becoming player-coach of the Goulburn Workers club in New South Wales.

He leaves wife Ruth, children Lynn, Susan, Michelle and Philip, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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