Written by Callum Walker
Chris Joynt began his career at Oldham before moving to St Helen’s in 1992. That move proved to be the catalyst for an incredible career.
Second-rower Joynt was part of the Saints squad that lost the 1993 Lancashire County Cup Final and the 1996 Regal Trophy Final to Wigan, but he was also present in St Helens’ Premiership Final success in 1993 and Challenge Cup triumph in 1996.
In fact, the imposing forward played so well in his first season (1993) and that year’s Grand Final that he won the Harry Sunderland trophy for his role in Saints’ 10-4 victory over Wigan.
Joynt also played for Australian Rugby League side Newcastle Knights in the British game’s off-season, scoring one try in seven games.
Another Challenge Cup success followed in 1997 with a 32-22 win over Bradford as the Wigan-born backrower lifted the trophy as vice-captain in the absence of suspended captain Bobbie Goulding.
Following the 1997 season, Joynt was appointed captain by then-head coach Shaun McRae aged just 25. In doing so, he became one of the most consistent players in the Saints team with the added responsibility doing wonders for his own game.
Joynt was at the forefront of Saints’ Grand Final victories in 1999 and 2000 as Bradford and Wigan were swept aside respectively. It was the latter final in which the forward particularly impressed as he scored two tries and was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy, becoming only the third player to win the trophy twice.
The forward’s – and perhaps Super League’s – most memorable moment was in the Eliminator Play-off in the build-up to the 2000 Grand Final when Joynt was on the end of the “Wide to West” play as Saints scored after the hooter had sounded to beat Bradford, a piece of footage that still circulates regularly today.
As Grand Final winners, St Helens played in the 2000 and 2001 World Club Challenges. Though losing to Melbourne Storm in 2000, the Lancashire club beat Brisbane Broncos in 2001 with Joynt scoring a try.
His success with Saints did not end there, however, and he captained the club to a third Grand Final victory in five years in 2002 as Saints beat Bradford once more at Old Trafford. However, this final was marred by controversy, centred around Joynt.
In one of the most controversial acts seen in the Super League era, the forward picked up the ball from dummy half and suddenly fell to the feet of Deacon and Lee Gilmour within kicking distance of the Saints’ goal post.
As Bradford fans, coaches and players screamed “voluntary tackle!” Joynt suddenly got to his feet before the hooter sounded to end the game. With the Bulls players apoplectic, referee Russell Smith blew the final whistle.
By that time, he was 31 and decided to retire the captaincy ahead of the 2004 season with Paul Sculthorpe the chosen successor.
The second-rower eventually hung up his boots in 2004 – after yet another Challenge Cup success as Wigan were put to the sword, 32-16 – at what can be seen as the relatively young age of 32, with Saints’ refusal to hand him a new deal the catalyst.
Over the course of 12 years, Joynt played 383 games for St Helens, scoring 121 tries. Captaining the side for seven seasons, he oversaw great success with Saints winning three Super League Grand Finals (and one Premiership title where Joynt was not skipper), one World Club Challenge and one Challenge Cup under his leadership (Joynt also won three other Challenge Cups in 1996, 1997 and 2004, but was not captain for any of them).
With the ability to play anywhere in the pack – with the exception of hooker – Joynt gave St Helens a utility value that was at the core of the club’s Super League and Challenge Cup successes in the early 2000s. A dangerous runner with ball-handling skills that belied his 6 ft, 15 stone frame, he was an incredibly talented player that naturally won representative honours.
For Great Britain, the forward earned 21 caps, for England four caps and for Ireland four caps too. He scored two tries for England and one for Ireland, the latter coming in the 2000 World Cup. He was also an ever-present for Lancashire in the Wars of the Roses Origin series.