St Helens have completed the painstaking task of allocating a Heritage Number to every player who has represented the club at first-team level since the inauguration of the Northern Union in 1895, beginning with their first fullback Tom Foulkes, right up to England Academy star Jack Welsby, who made his debut in 2018.
The numbers have been created thanks to the painstaking efforts of Saints aficionados Jack Leyland, Curtis Johnstone, Vernon Roby, Adrian Lawrenson, Paul Cotham, Bill Bates, Dave Dooley, Paul Cunliffe and Alex Service.
To celebrate the launch of the numbers, Jack Welsby, who has the newest Heritage Number #1245, presented Jimmy Goodier, the earliest living player to make his debut [#607], with a special one-off shirt emblazoned with his number.
A local lad born in Thatto Heath, Jimmy was a hooker who made his Saints debut in 1944 during the War Emergency League and packed down with and against some famous names in rugby league, such as George ‘Porky’ Davies and England international Norman Thompson.
Alex Service from the Saints’ Heritage Society said: “It cements their own unique position in the club’s legacy. Each individual has got their own story to tell and that really is important in terms of their overall part in the history of St Helens RFC. This has been a fantastic project to work on and everyone at Saints Heritage Society is proud of the result and the fact we can now release the numbers in conjunction with the club. It is the natural conclusion to over forty years of research by the various individuals involved and it is something which, of course, can be built on in the future.
“The research to identify every player who has played for the club has been very in-depth and we’ve found very interesting stories and facts about people and their backgrounds that we never knew much about. Library research has played a huge part as has poring over hundreds of match reports and programme collections, together with personal accounts and interviews with past players. Most information has been by design; some by pure accident! Friends and family of former players have also played a vital part in the final outcome.
“Bill Bates did much to collate the statistics into a manageable single document, especially in the formative years. From essentially ‘hard copy’ data, the launch of the Saints’ Heritage Society website in 2002 provided a much-needed platform for further development and the promotion of Saints’ statistical history into the wider public domain. Special thanks to Webmaster Paul Cunliffe in this respect, who remains a vital member of our society.
“There has also been the opportunity for wider research, led by Dave Dooley, on players before World War Two, including family make-up, employment characteristics and the geographical movement of individuals throughout Britain and the wider world.”
Saints Chairman Eamonn McManus said: “The Saints Heritage Society have been unstinting in their efforts over the years and have produced this phenomenal piece of work of which they can all be rightfully proud. The history and heritage of The Saints and its players is one of the richest in world sport and this project produces an appropriate and continuing record which befits that status. We should be very grateful indeed to all involved.”
The club are planning to issue a certificate with a special hologram to the players [or their next of kin] later in the year, but for the moment, Saints will proudly take to the field in both their home and away kits emblazoned with the golden heritage numbers.
See saintsrlfc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/St.Helens-R.F.C.-Heritage-Numbers.pdf for the full list.