In this strange and sad spring, the RFL sends its condolences to all who have lost loved ones. In recent days, we have become aware of the deaths of six former players, each of whom made a significant contribution to the game and its heritage, in a variety of ways. Here we pay tribute.
Jack Scroby – a key figure in two of the most successful periods in the history of the Halifax club, as recognised by his position in their Hall of Fame. As a player, he was a member of the teams who won the Yorkshire Cup in 1963 and who were crowned Champions in 1965, beating St Helens in the Final at Station Road in Swinton – having finished seventh in the league table. He retired in 1970 having played a total of 315 matches for the club, and scored 22 tries.
He then moved into coaching, initially with Huddersfield before returning to Halifax as assistant to Chris Anderson, the Australian who steered them to another Championship title in 1985-86, and to a Challenge Cup triumph against St Helens at Wembley the following season.
Chris Anderson’s wife Lynne posted a tribute to the club and Jack’s wife Beryl, saying: “The Scrobys took the Andersons under their wings and into their hearts. Jack was more than an assistant coach to Chris. He was the vital local connection for a rookie coach from Australia. His daughter Karen was our babysitter. Beryl our friend.”
Jack had initially turned professional with Bradford Northern, for whom he made 104 appearances between 1955 and 1959, mostly as a loose forward. He also represented the Army in rugby union at Twickenham in 1959 during his service with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in Northern Ireland.
Jack Scroby is pictured above after Halifax’s 1987 Wembley victory over St Helens, alongside the player-coach Chris Anderson on the shoulders of Graham Eadie.
Peter Astbury – a former Leeds, Bramley, Oldham and Bradford Northern hooker, who then moved into coaching as Tony Fisher’s assistant at Bramley, Keighley and Doncaster, and working alongside Roger Millward at York.
Bobby Chisnall – a member of the Widnes team who were Challenge Cup winners at Wembley in 1964, playing on the wing in their 13-5 victory against Hull KR. He scored 90 tries in eight seasons with the Chemics between 1959-65. He played his youth rugby for St Helens Juniors but began his professional career at Wigan, where he scored 25 tries in 40 games, and was a reserve for their 1958 Challenge Cup win.
Andrew Collier – one of two players with the same name who were Leigh team-mates in 1991-92, Andrew had joined the club from Wigan in the summer of 1991 and made 14 appearances in a promotion-winning campaign under the coaching of Kevin Ashcroft.
Trevor Oldroyd – a team-mate of Astbury’s at Leeds, Oldroyd was a scrum half who signed for the club on his 16th birthday after captaining Yorkshire Schoolboys, but played the majority of his career with Batley, scoring 24 tries, 193 goals and a drop goal in 190 appearances for the Gallant Youths. After retirement he stayed in close touch with the community and junior game in his home town of Dewsbury.
Bill Thompson – a Wembley team-mate of Chisnall’s for Widnes in 1964, playing on the opposite wing, outside Frank Myler – who also passed away recently. Thompson made 237 appearances for the Chemics between 1956 and 1965, scoring 110 tries.