Six of the best: One club men

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Eric Ashton (Wigan 1955-1969)
St Helens-born Eric Ashton first burst onto the scene in 1955 after joining the club on a six-match trial, having come highly recommended by army colleague Bert Marsh. Following that impressive trial, Ashton quickly established himself as a first team regular on the wing before later forming a classy partnership with Billy Boston down the right. He took the player coach role in 1963 and retired from playing in 1969. He remained as a coach at the club before joining Leeds and later St Helens. In all Ashton played 497 times for Wigan, captaining the club in a record six Wembley cup finals – winning three of them.

John Joyner (Castleford 1972-1992)
With 20 years of service to the West Yorkshire club, John Joyner holds a record at Castleford that is unlikely to be broken – that of 613 appearances. Born in Leeds, Joyner signed for the club’s under-17s side but quickly made his first team debut against Bramley in 1972. Over the following two decades, Joyner evolved from centre to stand-off to loose forward and remains the last Castleford captain to win the Challenge Cup. Following his retirement at the end of the 1991/92 season, Joyner stayed loyal to the club by taking on the assistant coach role and then the job of head coach.

Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos 1997-)
While his playing career hasn’t yet come to an end, an agreement with Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington that will allow him to continue playing for Leeds for as long as he wants suggests Kevin Sinfield is going nowhere. The 34 year old, who made his debut in 1997, has made over 450 appearances for the Rhinos. With six Super League titles under his belt and finally getting his hands on the Challenge Cup in 2014, Sinfield has led the Headingley club through the best period in its history. His playing achievements at domestic and international level were recognised when Rugby League World awarded him the Golden Boot in 2012.

Keiron Cunningham (St Helens 1994-2010)
Making his debut in the days before Super League and playing on until the end of 2010 has meant Keiron Cunningham’s name has become synonymous with the St Helens club. A world class hooker, Cunningham has gone down in history after scoring the very last first team try at the iconic Knowsley Road. A clear indication of how highly regarded Cunningham was by the fans is the fact that, in a public vote, he beat the likes of Alex Murphy and Tom Van Vollenhoven to be the subject of a bronze statue that now stands outside the club’s Langtree Park stadium. Cunningham’s association with the Saints continues as he makes the step up from assistant to head coach for the coming season following the departure of Nathan Brown.

Richard Horne (Hull FC 1999-2014)
Born and raised in Hull, the black and white side of the city couldn’t have asked for a better servant than Richard Horne. Having made just short of 400 appearances for the Airlie Birds, amassing over 550 points, Horne is one of the most recognisable names to come out of the club. Making his debut against Leeds at Headingley at the age of 16 and pulling off a magnificent tackle on Darren Fleary, it was clear from the start that he had a stellar career in front of him – and who knows now much better it could have been had injuries not blighted him in recent years. Now that his playing days are over Horne will take up the role of head coach of the club’s under-16s.

Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos 1995-2011)
A World Cup and Four Nations winner, a dual Golden Boot recipient and a multiple State of Origin and Grand Final winner with Queensland and Brisbane respectively, Darren Lockyer is one of the most decorated Rugby League stars of all time. He has part of the Warrego Highway between Ipswich and Toowoomba named after him, and even the staunchest of Great Britain fans would have found it hard not to be mesmerised by Lockyer at his best. With 355 appearances for the Broncos, they certainly lost an all-time great when he hung up his boots for the last time at the end of the 2011 season.

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