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Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Thursday, 20 March 2008

Rugby league legend Ashton dies

Eric Ashton
Ashton excelled as a player for Wigan and Great Britain

Former Wigan and Great Britain centre Eric Ashton has lost his fight against cancer at the age of 73.

The Rugby League Hall of Fame member scored 1,589 points in 497 appearances for Wigan between 1955-63 and captained the club in six Challenge Cup finals.

Ashton was capped 26 times by Great Britain and led the Lions to World Cup victory in 1960 as captain.

He later coached St Helens to league and cup glory and was chairman of the 1996 double-winning team.

Ashton had been battling prostate cancer for five years, and leaves behind wife Doreen and his two children and four grandchildren.

As a man he was a total gentleman. I'm very sad indeed

St Helens great Alex Murphy

Current St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said: "The club and the game has lost one of its greatest ever players and greatest ever men. He was one of the best of the best during a golden era for British rugby league.

"The club intended to present Eric with a plaque commemorating five years as St Helens life president at the Wigan game tomorrow.

"This will now be done privately with his family and a minute's silence held in his honour. All our thoughts are with Eric's wife Doreen and his family."

The RFL's executive chairman Richard Lewis added: "We are tremendously saddened to hear of the death of Eric Ashton who was a true legend of rugby league.

606: TRIBUTES
Stleon

"He contributed so much to the game on and off the field and was a very special individual.

"I feel personally privileged to have had the opportunity to meet him and get to know him."

Former St Helens great Alex Murphy also joined in the tributes when speaking to BBC Radio Manchester.

"I'm absolutely shattered. He's probably one of the best captains I've ever played under. And as a man he was a total gentleman. I'm very sad indeed.

"The only problem with Eric Ashton was he was a St Helens lad but he signed for Wigan. We missed out on him, but it was Wigan's gain. Great player and a great man."

ASHTON CHALLENGE CUP FACTFILE
As captain: Wigan in 1958 (w), 1959 (w), 1961 (l), 1963 (l), 1965 (w) and 1966 (l)
As player-coach: Wigan in 1965 (w) and 1966 (l)
As coach: Wigan in 1970 (l); Saints in 1976 (w) and 1978 (l)
As chairman: Saints in 1996 (w) and 1997 (w)

The ex-BBC commentator believes there should be a fitting memorial to the man he considers to be one of the best ever to play the game.

"I think Wigan should look at this very carefully and the Rugby League should look at it very carefully. These people - we're losing them far too quickly.

"He was a massive ambassador for Rugby League and he deserves something doing for him."



see also
Cup heroes: Eric Ashton
27 Feb 04 |  Challenge Cup
League honours super six
14 Dec 00 |  Rugby League


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