Obituary: Ricky Bibey – The Challenge Cup winner with Wigan Warriors and St Helens

RICKY BIBEY (September 22, 1981 – July 16, 2022)

Ricky Bibey featured in two Challenge Cup final clashes between arch-rivals Wigan Warriors and St Helens – and unusually, was a winner with each side.

As a teenager, the prop or occasionally second rower, who died aged 40 while on holiday in Italy, helped his first professional club Wigan lift the famous old trophy with a 21-12 victory at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, in 2002.

And having joined Saints for the 2004 season, he helped them see off Wigan 32-16 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Bibey, who was well over six feet tall, weighed in at 17 stones and had good handling skills, also had three spells at hometown Leigh Centurions, whom he helped win the Northern Rail Cup in 2006 and where his father Ronnie featured for the Colts in the seventies, and played for Oldham and Wakefield Trinity.

He caught the eye as a junior at Leigh East, and in December 1999, represented the Young Lions in a two-Test series against the renowned Australian Schoolboys side.

While a home-team side, which also included the likes of Paul Sykes, who is still playing for Dewsbury, Chris Thorman, Richard Horne and Jamie Jones-Buchanan were beaten 24-4 at Widnes, League Express reported that along with Wigan team-mates Mark Smith and David Hodgson, Bibey had “a top game”.

He also featured in the second clash at The Boulevard, Hull, where the tourists were given a tougher test by Steve McCormack’s side before clinching a 16-12 victory.

Having come through the Wigan development system, Bibey made his first-team debut in the 50-6 home Super League win over Wakefield in May 2001.

It was an eventful spell, for he was sent off in the following match, a 31-30 defeat at Salford, just before coach Frank Endacott was sacked, making way for Stuart Raper switching from Castleford Tigers.

Bibey made two further appearances that season, and in 2002, played 26 times, including the Challenge Cup Final.

At the end of the season, he toured the South Pacific with England A, and played in both matches against Fiji – a 44-8 win in Lautoka and 18-12 defeat in Suva – and the 30-18 victory over Tonga in Nuku’alofa.

While Bibey returned to play twelve times for Wigan in 2003, he also had a ten-game loan spell at Leigh, which included the National League One Grand Final against Salford (City Reds), who won 31-14 at Widnes.

He then joined St Helens, with an RFL tribunal fixing an initial £20,000 transfer fee with a further £10,000 after he made 15 appearances.

There were 21 in total under Ian Millward, including the Challenge Cup Final, before a move to Oldham for the 2005 National League One campaign.

He joined Leigh, who had been relegated from Super League, in 2006, with Hull KR defeated 22-18 in the Northern Rail Cup final at Blackpool.

Kear, Bibey’s old England coach, provided him with a route back into Super League with Wakefield in 2007, and he spent three seasons at Trinity, playing 60 times, with his club reaching the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 2008 and the play-offs the year after.

He began his third spell with Leigh in 2010, spending three seasons at the club before an Achilles tendon injury forced his retirement.

In all, Bibey played 215 club games, scoring eight tries: 42 (two tries) for Wigan, 71 (five tries) for Leigh), 21 for St Helens and Oldham and 60 (one try) for Wakefield.

He later ran a window-cleaning business and a property venture.

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