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By Geoff Armstrong

St George Illawarra are deeply saddened by the passing of St George Dragons premiership-winning player Dick Huddart. The Great Britain international and St Helens Championship and Challenge Cup winner was 85.

From the start of his football career, Huddart seemed destined for greatness. In a preview of the 1958 Great Britain rugby tour of Australia, the Sun-Herald wrote: 'Dick Huddart's mid-field bursts will thrill Sydney fans. He is a fitter in a Cumbrian coalmine, and off the football field is a straight-forward, fun loving youngster'.

Huddart made his Test debut in the second match of the 1958 Ashes series, playing a leading role in a 25-18 Great Brittain victory. Two weeks later, the Lions dominated the third Test 40-17, and Huddart was well on the way to being recognised as the best running second-rower in the world.

Huddart shifted from Whitehaven to St Helens on a big-money transfer after the '58 tour. He would play 209 games for the Saints and claim the Lance Todd Trophy as the best player in their 1961 Challenge Cup final victory over Wigan. He was a star of the Great Britain team that so decisively won the 1962 Ashes series in Australia.

Huddart was superb throughout that tour, and especially in a game against St George played after the third Test. St George had won the previous six Sydney premierships, but were no match for the Lions, who won 33-5 before a mid-week record SCG crowd of 57,744. The Dragons had an immensely powerful pack, featuring famous names such as Norm Provan, Kevin Ryan, Billy Wilson, Elton Rasmussen and Johnny Raper, but they didn't have a running forward as damaging as Dick Huddart.

By 1963, Huddart was contemplating migrating to Australia with his family. When the subject came up in conversations with Raper and Ian Walsh, two Saints men who were touring with the Kangaroos (and who knew from experience just how devastating a footballer Huddart could be), they advised him to make no commitments until they had spoken with St George secretary Frank Facer.

By Christmas, Manchester tabloid Daily Sketch, reported confidently: "Dick Huddart will migrate to Australia at the end of the current English season." He had only played in one Test in the recent Ashes series in England: the third, Great Britain's only victory, when he was "head and shoulders above any other forward" on the field, according to the London Sunday Telegraph.

St Helens set the transfer fee at £20,000 sterling (£A25,000). Facer haggled that down to £A12,500. The move received the all-clear in late March – the imminent birth of the Huddart's third child meant his arrival to Australia was delayed until mid-May.

The response in Australia to his transfer fee was a mixture of wonder and disbelief. When 12,000 fans turned up at Kogarah for Huddart's Dragons debut — in a non-premiership 'State Championship' match against Riverina – St George considered him a bargain. The big Englishman would take Elton Rasmussen's place in the second row and enjoy an outstanding first season, playing in every game until he hurt his knee in the major semi-final which forced him out of the grand final.

Huddart's Dragons career would continue until 1968. He had his problems with injuries, especially in 1965 when he missed the famous 12–8 win over Souths in front of 78,056 fans at the SCG. But at other times, he was magnificent, especially in 1966 when he didn't miss a game.

"Englishman Dick Huddart had his best game of the season," wrote Tom Goodman in the Sun-Herald after the '66 grand final, won 23–4 over Balmain, the 11th straight premiership. "He is a classical runner with ball, with one hand free to fend off an opponent. He scored a try by running off [Ian] Walsh and finding a gap, in a manner reminiscent of his efforts in Tests against Australia."

Huddart was in the Dragons second row for the finals in his last two seasons at Kogarah. When injury threatened his place for the minor semi-final against Easts in 1968, Alan Clarkson in the Herald reported that coach Norm Provan had "gone into bat" for the Englishman to play. Huddart responded with a stirring display, scoring the opening try. The preliminary final loss to Souths a fortnight later was his Dragons farewell.

Huddart coached at Dubbo in western New South Wales and after retiring lived at different times in Australia and England.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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