From scoring at Wembley to 15 early baths - win copies of Mike Nicholas' book

Scoring at Wembley in 1974

Wembley winners: Left to right, back row: Derek Noonan, Brian Brady, Derek Whitehead and Billy Pickup. Middle row: trainer Derek “Nobby” Clarke, Dave Chisnall, Bobby Wanbon, Dave Wright, Barry Philbin and Mike Nicholas. Front row: John Bevan, Mike Phi

Wembley reunion: Here are the Warrington team 25 years later, in 1999, in exactly the same places, and apparently not looking a day older.

Early bath: Mike following Bradford’s Jimmy Thompson off the pitch for one of his 15 sendings off.

Mike autographing a football, proudly wearing his Wales Rugby League tie.

Mike with the Mayor and Mayoress of Warrington, Councillor and Mrs Gordon Myles, at Warrington Town Hall in March 1974

First published in News

HE scored the winning try in a Wembley final and enjoyed 15 early baths in his phenomenal career.

Now form Warrington legend Mike Nicholas has released his new autobiography From Swn-Y-Mor to Seattle, Nicko’s rugby odyssey.

Co-written by former Warrington Guardian journalist Gary Slater, Nicko’s rugby odyssey tells the story of a lifetime in rugby.

Tantalisingly close to a Wales rugby union cap, he joined Alex Murphy’s Warrington in 1972 and scored the match-winning try when the Wire won the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1974.

Never sent off in rugby union, he enjoyed 15 “early baths” in rugby league to become a legend of the game.

We have five copies of the book on offer in our competition.

Tell us who won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match when Warrington won the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1974?

Send your answers on a postcard to Nicko Competition, Warrington Guardian, The Academy, 138 Bridge Street, Warrington, Cheshire, WA1 2RU. Or email newsdesk@guardiangrp.co.uk Include your address and a daytime telephone number. The closing date is Good Friday. Usual Newsquest rules apply.

The book will be officially launched at “An Evening with Mike Nicholas” in the Martin Dawes Lounge at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on April 15, starting at 7pm.

Admission is free and speakers will include Big Jim Mills, Andy Gregory, Alex Murphy and Mike Nicholas with Angela Powers, from Sky Sports, acting as the compere.

The book is available from April at £14.95 but will be available at the launch for £14. I it can be ordered from tllpshop.co.uk for £14 post free in the UK. It will also be on sale in the Warrington Wolves club shop.

Wembley 1974: Simply the best Looking back, the 1974 Wembley team was the best side I ever played in. It was really well-balanced and everybody worked for each other. We were very competitive and very honest.

Derek Whitehead was terrific at full-back. He had everything, including a great sidestep, and he was a good goalkicker. Mike Philbin was only a makeshift right winger but he was a massive talent. He could play anywhere in the backs. Derek Noonan was excellent at right centre. He was so dependable.

Alan Whittle played at left centre even though he was a stand-off really. He was a St Helens lad, like Alex Murphy, and a very good player in his own right.

John Bevan was on the left wing. He was a huge addition to our team: a great player and an out-and-out powerhouse. He was unstoppable at times.

Keith Fielding of Salford, Stuart Wright of Widnes and John had a race at Wilderspool. Keith was the fastest player I ever played against and he won it, finishing about two yards ahead of Stuart Wright, and he finished about two yards ahead of John. But John had other stuff in his armoury: raw power.

Murph missed the four rounds leading up to Wembley but played at stand-off in the final and brought so much to the side in terms of leadership. Scrum-half Parry Gordon was my hero. He had such talent and such humility. I had so much respect for him. He was a great guy and sadly passed away too young.

As far as I am concerned he was up there with all the great half-backs: Gareth Edwards, Andy Gregory and Murph. He used to knock big guys down and clamp them. He used to scamper through gaps, he was like lightning.

People used to call our forwards the Panzer Pack. Murph would use us like panzer tanks and the backs stormed through after the blitzkrieg. The front row of Dave Chisnall, Kevin Ashcroft and Brian Brady was brilliant. Chissie was a great competitor, Brady was as strong as a bull, the cornerstone of the pack, and nobody could subdue Kevin Ashcroft.

Me and Dave Wright played in the second row. Dave was a guest player from the Brisbane Brothers and Queensland’s player of the year. He gave us a masterclass in tackling that season and he backed up and supported play. He was terrific. Murph said we were one of the best second-row partnerships ever to play at Wembley.

Loose-forward Barry Philbin was Mike’s brother and was one of the best pound-for-pound players I have ever known. He was only thirteen-and-a-half stones but he was unbelievable. Murphy signed him from Swinton in January and he was unheralded really but fitted in fantastically. He was the final piece in the jigsaw.

Legend has it that somebody asked Barry at the end of the season how much winning pay was and he told them. The man then asked: “How much is losing pay?” Barry replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t lost yet.” He had played 16 and won 16, not a bad record.

 John Player Trophy 1978:

Mud and blood The 1978 John Player Trophy final against Widnes was the mud and blood final. They were atrocious conditions and I was up against a novice prop from Wales in Glyn Shaw, who had only signed for Widnes from Neath three months before, and I gave him his rites of passage. I gave him his welcome to rugby league, like I used to do with all the Welsh boys, showing them what they would have to put up with.

Warrington Guardian:

The final became a war of attrition, with dirty tricks thrown in to try to establish dominance. I picked a lump of mud up before a scrum and shoved it in his eyes and up his nose. He was led off because he couldn’t see through the mud. There were physical asides going on all the time in those days. Scrums used to be like two octopi mating. It was like being on a waltzer as the scrums went up and down. The No8 was the key man and Kevin Ashcroft had shown me all the dark arts.

We won 9-4 and picked up £300 per man winning pay – about £2,000 per man in today’s money – and Eddie Fuller, the Warrington Guardian’s chief photographer, took a brilliant picture of Parry Gordon and myself (and Ken Kelly’s nose) covered in mud and blood, with Parry holding up the trophy.

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