Obituary - Gary Wallbanks, Workington Town player
Last updated at 19:51, Thursday, 28 June 2012
Former Workington Town rugby league player Gary Wallbanks, who played for the team between 1979 and 1985, has died aged 56.
Mr Wallbanks was born in Workington in August 1955 and grew up in Moorclose.
He went to Moorclose School and, while he enjoyed football, it was there that his interest in rugby was sparked.
His wife Valda said: “His headmaster was rugby mad. He spotted this lad who was quite tall for his age and quite big and broad for his age and he encouraged him to play.”
As a teenager he joined Workington Zebras, playing rugby union.
But matters of the heart led to him changing codes in 1978, the year after he met the then Valda Greenhalgh.
She said: “In those days when you played rugby union you didn’t get any money but when you played rugby league you got paid for it.
“He decided he’d probably have to marry me and he’d need some money. That’s why he went over to rugby league.”
Mr Wallbanks joined Broughton Red Rose initially.
His wife added: “After six months he signed for Town and that paid for the deposit on our house.”
The couple married in 1979 and lived at Warwick Place.
In his six years at Workington Town, Mr Wallbanks made 20 first team appearances.
One of his first was in the 1979 Lancashire Cup final squad captained by Paul Charlton, the father of current team coach Gary.
Mr Wallbanks’s main job was as a welder, initially at Workington’s steelworks, and he kept up the trade after he had finished playing rugby.
He was good friends with former Town player and coach Ged Stokes, and during a trip to visit him in New Zealand in 1984 Mr and Mrs Wallbanks fell in love with the country.
They lived there for a year in 1987, before moving back to Workington and living at Lorton Avenue.
They then emigrated to New Zealand in 1995.
Mr Wallbanks was diagnosed with inoperable kidney cancer in October and spent some of his final months fulfilling his dream to explore New Zealand’s north island.
A family man, his daughters Emma, 26, and Amy, 25, meant everything to him.
He was overjoyed at the birth of granddaughter Anika six weeks ago, who joined three-year-old Layla in the family.
Mr Wallbanks died on Saturday.
A minute’s silence was held before Town’s match against Whitehaven on Sunday in Mr Wallbanks’ honour.
Mrs Wallbanks said: “It’s 17 years since we lived in Workington and 28 years since he played for Town, and the fact that they held a minute’s silence has absolutely blown us away.”
Workington Town chairman Dave Bowden met Mr Wallbanks when he was a teenager and they played football together.
He said: “He was always very keen on sport. He was one of those players who always gave 100 per cent; there were no practice games with Gary.
“The biggest thing about Gary was his modesty. He was so modest about what he did and what he achieved.”
Mr Wallbanks’s funeral takes place today in New Zealand.
First published at 19:24, Thursday, 28 June 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
Have your say
I had the pleasure of working with Gary at PIAM Engineering; he was a true gentleman and a pleasure to know.
My condolensces to his family.
A true gent