For Rugby League World’s ‘Blast From The Past’ series in 2008, I spoke Paul Loughlin, the former St Helens, Bradford and Great Britain centre; the man whose try almost won Great Britain the Ashes in 1990.
What are you doing these days?
I work at Pilkingtons in St Helens. In my spare time, I’m a goalkeeper at Garswood United FC, which is great fun. I took my sons along once and they told me they needed a ‘keeper so I gave it a go. I can catch and kick so the rugby must have helped! I like the afters too, the laughs and the dressing room craic – that’s what I miss about rugby. But I’ve played a bit of rugby too recently, in a game of touch at St Helens recently for Lancashire All-Stars against Yorkshire and I played in Steve Prescott’s testimonial last year too. He wanted me to run the London Marathon this year with him, Dave Lyon and Chris Joynt but as I told him, I get lapped on a treadmill these days. I’ve no chance with my knees.
You played for Saints and Bradford. Who do you support now?
I’ve always supported Saints from when I was little and my dad played for them too. I live next to the ground too and I’m still a big fan. I had two great years at Bradford though, and they treated me very well. I want them to win their games too, when they’re not playing Saints, of course.
Are you the type to reminisce over your career? Do you watch old videos?
No, I never watch them. I like talking about the old days but that’s about it.
Which was your favourite ever game?
My debut for Saints as a 17-year-old against Oldham in 1984, having spent years watching my heroes play at Knowsley Road. I came off the bench and the first thing I did was kick a goal from 40 yards. Harry Pinner called me Roy of the Rovers for that afterwards! It was great playing with local lads like Chris Arkright, Neil Holding, Andy Platt, Barrie Ledger, Paul Forber and others, all great lads. I went on to score over 2000 points for Saints and recently got in the Hall of Fame there, along with Neil, which was a great honour and one of the biggest highlights of my Rugby League life.
Four years after your debut you were chosen to tour Down Under with Great Britain.
Being picked for that was such a thrill. I made the most of it because I thought it might be my only chance like that. There were some injuries and I got in for the Papua New Guinea Test and stayed in the side, even winning man of the tour, which I couldn’t believe. The third Test was the highlight, of course. No one expected us to win and we had a depleted side. The Aussies thought they’d walk all over us I think. I made the break for Henderson Gill’s try and I kicked a couple of goals but the game will always be remembered for Mike Gregory’s try, God rest his soul.
1990 and the intercept you took off Ricky Stuart. Do you still think about that much?
Sometimes! I was sub that day. I did my hamstring at training a while before and I missed the Wembley Test. I came on into the centres opposite Mal Meninga. I can still see Ricky’s long ball and I knew that if I’d missed it then the Aussies would score but I knew I could get my fingertips to it and I did. I should have gone nearer the posts really but you don’t think like that at the time because I could see Laurie Daley chasing me. Paul Eastwood asked me if I wanted to kick the goal and in hindsight, I wish I had have done but Paul was kicking alright. I think Mal Reilly still blames me for not kicking it.
How do you feel when the Challenge Cup final comes around each year?
[laughs] I’m proud to have been there and played in them even though everyone knows I lost all five finals. A lot better players than me never got to play at Wembley though. We were unfortunate to play the mighty Wigan twice but we should have beaten Halifax in 1987. John Pendlebury did brilliantly right at the end to stop Mark Elia from scoring. Then when I moved to Bradford, we lost to Saints at Wembley in 1996 and 1997. Losing to my old club was disappointing but, like I said, I’m proud to have played in those finals.
You left Saints for Bradford in November 1995 as part of the deal that took Paul Newlove to Knowsley Road. What exactly happened?
One of the directors – I can’t remember his name – rang me to go into the club. I’d just signed a new Super League contract and I was after a bit more money so I thought it was about that. When I got there, I saw Bernard Dwyer who told me what was happening and I thought he was joking. But they weren’t. They said that I was going to Bradford with Bernard and Sonny Nickle so Paul Newlove could join the club. I asked what would happen if I didn’t want to go and they said I’d be playing A-team rugby because Paul and Scott Gibbs would be the centres. It was heartbreaking but I went on to have two brilliant years at Bradford, winning the Super League in 1997.