What a truly astonishing career Jeff Grayshon enjoyed.
It was so sad to learn of the death at 72 of a man who was still turning out for Batley at 45, having been signed by their neighbours Dewsbury at 19 and making his first-team debut at 21.
His fantastic tally of 776 appearances has been bettered by only three players: Jim Sullivan, Gus Risman and Neil Fox.
Jeff fully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as that tremendous trio.
He had a special relationship with Peter Fox, who coached him at three clubs – Bradford, with whom he won two of his trio of league titles, Leeds and Featherstone – and selected him for both England and Yorkshire.
Hopefully he’s up there talking to Peter now, and if they meet up with Maurice Bamford, who handed Jeff a Great Britain recall in 1985, when he was 36, just imagine the conversations!
Jeff, a key player when Dewsbury won the league in 1973, who also had a stint in Australia with Cronulla (another reflection of how good he was), was a great bloke, and an entertaining character off the field, but on it, he was deadly serious, passionate and desperate to succeed.
He played in the days of winning and losing pay, and you could liken it to a burglar appearing in your house and trying to steal the television as you were sitting there watching it.
Jeff wouldn’t have let it go without a hell of a fight, and he had the same approach out on the pitch, because he’d do everything in his power to stop the opposition taking the points and denying him that higher financial reward as well as the sheer satisfaction and enjoyment of a victory.
He was a tough man who could mix it with the best when he had to, but like a lot of old-school forwards, he was also skilful with the ball in his hands and had great vision, a legacy of his early days in the game, when he played at fullback or centre.
Jeff and I played both alongside (for Yorkshire and Great Britain) and against each other, and I also have a special memory – and photograph – of the pair of us walking off the pitch after being sinbinned for fighting during a match between Leeds and Featherstone in 1990.
I say fighting, but it was more Jeff grinning while holding me at arm’s length as I swung a few fresh-air shots. If he’d thrown a punch back at me, I’d have ended up on my backside.
I was mad because he’d tried to trip me, and told him so as we were heading off for our ten minutes of cooling off. Jeff just laughed and said ‘it’s the only way I could stop you’, and I couldn’t help but smile.
Jeff also played both alongside his son Paul – and I know how much that meant to him – and against him, and there was certainly no going easy by either of them.
He also coached Batley to the runners-up spot in the Championship, which had it not been for the imminent switch to summer rugby, would have earned them a place in the top tier, and he was fully deserving of being made an MBE for his services to the game.
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