ST HELENS have inducted former captain James Roby into their prestigious Hall of Fame, waiving the rule that says that a player should be retired for at least five years before qualifying for the honour.
The announcement was made at a dinner on Saturday night that celebrated the club’s 150th anniversary, commemorating its founding at a public meeting in the Fleece Hotel in the town on November 19, 1873 by William Douglas Herman, who at the time was the head chemist at the Pilkington Glassworks.
Saints chairman Eamonn McManus and Saints legend Harry Pinner were on the stage to present Roby, who carries the Saints heritage number 1136, with a special award to acknowledge his inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
Roby becomes the 46th member of the St Helens Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Kel Coslett, Billy Benyon, Alex Murphy and Tom van Vollenhoven.
Many former players across many eras of the club attended the event, with the descendants of some of the most famous players who have passed away also in the room.
During his career, Roby won six Super League titles, eight League Leaders’ Shields, four Challenge Cups, and two World Club Challenge trophies.
He retired at the age of 37 after making a record number of 551 appearances for St Helens, having overtaken Kel Coslett, who held the record for 47 years, in May this year.
“I’m grateful to be part of this select group of players who have been inducted,” said Roby.
“Being a St Helens lad, all I wanted to do was play for this club, and what a time I’ve had. If it’s going to finish with honours like this, then it makes me immensely proud and I’m intensely loyal to the club.
“St Helens will always hold a dear place in my heart and I will always stand with the club.
“I’ve been so lucky to play with some of the best players in the world all over the world, with amazing staff in amazing stadiums. It’s given us, as a family, a fantastic life and I will be forever grateful for that.
“I have to thank my family, first and foremost. There are a lot of sacrifice and commitment that go into being a professional Rugby League player. You have to be a bit selfish at times and your family are the ones who take the brunt of that.
“(Wife) Natasha has looked after me for 20 years and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that.
“You try to be a role model, to behave in the right way and do the right things on and off the field. But that’s all down to your family and the people you have around you.”
The audience was treated to a number of tributes to Roby from players and coaches he has been associated with in his long career.
“Congratulations on having had the best career that anyone could ever have wished for,” said his former team-mate James Graham.
“I’m often asked who the best player is I’ve ever played with and it’s you, for a multitude of reasons. You are my favourite ever team-mate. You are one of the best players our country has ever produced.”
Saints’ current coach Paul Wellens, who also played alongside Roby during his own playing career, was also effusive in his praise.
“There is little that is beyond him. And he is so mentally strong as well, which I have not seen rivalled in the game,” said Wellens.