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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Risman in Hall of Fame

THE man who led Workington Town to their finest moment in the club’s history has been inducted into the Derwent Park Hall of Fame.

Augustus John Risman - known simply as Gus to legions of Town supporters and rugby league fans in general - was coach when the club won the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1952.

He was 41 years of age when he received the Cup after his fledgling Town side (only formed in 1946) had beaten Featherstone Rovers 18-10.

Leading the team from full-back, he kicked a penalty in the first minute and converted two tries later on. He had enjoyed the longest career that the professional game has known.

After making his debut for Salford on 31 August, 1929 be played his last for Batley at the end of December in 1954, making a remarkable playing career of 25 years and four months.

He had played 873 matches by then, kicked 1,678 goals, scored 232 tries and 4,052 points and only two British players are famous for having been older than that when they finished - Cumbrian Joe Ferguson and Jeff Grayshon.

It was another rugby league legend Jim Brough who first suggested that Town should go for Risman when the club was formed in 1946.

Brough, like Risman, had been a Great Britain captain in Australia and he knew the ex-Salford star had the qualities a fledgling club like Workington would need. Town’s greatest need was for someone who knew the ropes and could inspire a promising but raw young side.

In his eight years as player-coach at Borough Park - which they shared with Workington Reds - he made them into a team capable of beating Wigan or anyone else in the league, and they won a championship as well as the Challenge Cup. In 301 games for them he kicked 717 goals and scored 33 tries.

Born in Cardiff in 1911 his rugby talents were first spotted by Lance Todd, the New Zealand manager of Salford.

In fact he was good enough to have followed a career in the round ball game as several clubs were interested in him as a 17-year-old, Tottenham Hotspur scouts arrived at his home hoping to secure a left-half, only to find that he had just signed up for a career as a full-back, centre or wing three-quarter and stand-off half with Salford instead.

Salford's domination in the thirties owed much to Risman, when they won the championship three times, the Challenge Cup once, the Lancashire Cup four times, and topped the Lancashire League on five occasions.

He was the master tactician, as well as the principal points-scorer and twice kicked 13 goals in a match for the club, against Bramley and Broughton Rangers.

His international career was over by the time he joined Town but it had lasted for 14 years.

Test football came to him initially on the 1932 tour Down Under, when he was understudy to Jim Sullivan at full-back; and he played 17 times at that level, in all three of his positions, touring again in 1936 and as captain of the 1946 Indomitables.

During the War he joined the Military Police and served with the First Airborne Division in North Africa but he also captained Wales in a couple of rugby union Services international, and appeared as a guest player with Hunslet, Leeds, Bradford Northern and Dewsbury.

After leaving Town in 1954 he coached Salford for four years, before moving on to Oldham and then Bradford.

Two of his sons became first-class rugby league players - Bev with Leigh, Leeds and Great Britain, and John with Workington, Fulham, Blackpool and Carlisle.

Risman died on October 17, 1994, in Workington aged 83.

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