LETTERS: Tribute to rugby legend Malcolm Shuttleworth

Malcolm Shuttleworth
Malcolm Shuttleworth

Malcolm was a centre come half back for Batley (the Gallant Youths) during the 60s and 70s.

He was a determined runner. I recall the day when he scored the winning try to put much fancied Halifax out of the Rugby League cup – it was a giant killing act. Malcolm was one of many thousands of rugby league players who applied their skills at weekends, trained two or three times during the week and worked during the day – even as they were classed as professional they were semi- professional, like many of the championship and division one players of today.

The game of rugby league, as it still does today, thrived on the toughness and skill of these players.

The reason why I am writing this letter is to pay a tribute to a man who deserves acclaim for the influences he bore not only on myself but hundreds of more aspiring young players of their day.

I was born into a family of professional sportsmen, either boxers or rugby league players. Malcolm was the first coach that I had outside of my family influence. He was a special man and somehow he found the time to bring up a young family, work through the day, train with his professional outfit at night, play at weekends and put what little spare time he had into developing the young players.

Malcolm (pictured above) was a hard task master, he would push you to your limits and he was always on the go - he was tremendously fit, whatever training you did he would be there doing it with you.

He was the first person outside my family to inspire me, to give me the belief that I could achieve whatever I wished to achieve; he endorsed good discipline and good family values.

Malcolm instilled that competitive spirit and many professionals came through Malcolm’s ranks – he knew exactly what it took to get his charges to where they wanted to be.

Malcolm Shuttleworth epitomises everything that thousands of volunteer coaches like himself stood for.

Sadly I have just received information that Malcolm has passed away at 80 years of age. I could never imagine him as 80 right up to the last time I saw him – he was still the fit competitive man that I always knew.

It’s hard to accept that one of your childhood heros has died but for me and many more like me he will forever live on, for the game of rugby league lives on and flourishes with people like Malcolm Shuttleworth.

It was Malcolm’s and my family’s philosophy that I inherited which assisted me in setting up the youth system at Wigan Warriors, it was their guidance and influence which had a knock-on effect to many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young players who have gone on to make their mark in the game.

Whilst at Wigan Warriors Malcolm was one of the first people who I wanted to bring on board with me but no, Malcolm was as happy as anything doing what he always wanted to do – remain in his own environment producing the local player. He never did visit me at Wigan where I would have proudly made him welcome.

It was my way of saying a special thank you.

Malcolm’s thanks was seeing his charges achieve whatever they wished to achieve. It made me feel so humble.

So on behalf of the thousands of rugby league players past, present and future I say a special thank you to people like Malcolm Shuttleworth.

We speak about halls of fame these are the people who have a special place in our own hall of fame.

God Bless you all.

Brian Foley

Wigan, Lancashire