Written by Callum Walker
Though starting his career with Oldham way back in 1989, Tommy Martyn was still a prominent figure for St Helens in the late ‘90s and early noughties in Super League. For Oldham, Martyn notched up 78 appearances, scoring 36 tries and kicking 85 goals and three drop-goals. A reliable figure for the Roughyeds, a move to St Helens in 1992 proved the catalyst for Martyn to go on to dizzying career heights.
Martyn won back-to-back Challenge Cups with Saints in 1996 and 1997 with the halfback producing a man-of-the-match display in the latter to win the Lance Todd trophy. His head coach Stuart McRae had dubbed Martyn “the greatest half-back in Britain” and he was showing just why.
Leigh-born Martyn added Grand Final glory to his list of achievements in 1999 when St Helens beat Bradford in that year’s showpiece event at Old Trafford.
Though Saints lost the 2000 World Club Challenge, the Lancashire club recovered to win the Grand Final over Wigan as Martyn was named the Lancashire club’s Player of the Year. It had been a tremendous turnaround for Martyn; he had initially found himself out of favour with boss Ellery Hanley at the beginning of 2000, but the appointment of Ian Millward in March of that year kickstarted his Saints career once more.
Unfortunately for Martyn it was Long that scooped up the Man of Steel that year as both ended the season Super League’s joint top try-scorers with 22.
Saints and Martyn gained revenge over the Australians in the 2001 World Club Challenge, beating Brisbane Broncos 20-18. Despite excelling for Saints over the years, Martyn was, however, omitted from Saints’ Grand Final winning side in 2002, and though he played in the 2003 World Club Challenge, St Helens were hammered 38-0 by Sydney Roosters.
During the 2003 season, Martyn left Saints aged 32 to join Leigh Centurions with immediate effect after being told he would not be offered a new contract following a broken arm early in the season. In 11-and-a-half seasons with St Helens, Martyn scored 127 tries in 211 appearances.
An Irish international, Martyn registered three appearances for the Wolfhounds. But, the halfback sacrificed the Irish captaincy in the 2003 European Nations Cup to concentrate on getting Leigh back into Super League (though the Centurions would later lose 31-14 to Salford in the play-off final).
Upon retiring, Martyn became the kicking coach for Warrington’s academy in 2008 and took up the same role with Widnes a year later.
Often described as one of the most natural kicking halfbacks in the game, Martyn could turn a game on its head within an instant. His communicative capacity meant he was like an on-field coach at times, using his intelligence to steer the team around the field. Rarely has a player lit up Super League with a perfect Rugby League brain as Tommy Martyn did.
And, for a player that went through two knee reconstructions and four hernia operations during his career, the mental strength, durability and determination to get back on the field possessed by Martyn cannot be underestimated.