SOME of the greatest rugby league players of the past had looks that were deceiving – and Dave Chisnall was the epitome.
The tough-as-teak 16st front rower carried the physique of a battering ram, but with a footballing brain, a tricky sidestep, an 80-minute engine and a good turn of pace he defied the mud covered prop stereotype.
And he did so with a cheeky grin on his face for close to a remarkable 600 senior professional matches for eight clubs, his county and country, between 1967 and 1985.
Chissie, who died, aged 64, surrounded by his family at his St Helens home on Friday after a long battle with cancer, spent his most fruitful seasons with Warrington, being a member of the club’s most successful side to date when four trophies were won in the 1973/74 season.
When he returned to Wilderspool Stadium for a second spell in 1981, close pal Ken Kelly was his captain.
“He had everything,” said 60-year-old Kelly, a regular visitor to Chissie during his illness and a fellow Wolves legend as a Man of Steel winner and Great Britain international.
“I remember Eddie and Stevo going berserk on Sky over James Graham being a prop who could pass the ball.
“But Dave was passing and missing players out 30 years ago or more.
“He was a half back with a number eight on his back.
“He’d slip the ball to a supporting player, he’d chip kick over the defence and regather it, he’d sell a dummy.
“Dave was a one-off, there’ll never be another like him.”
Alex Murphy signed Chissie twice, offering him at the age of 18 his first professional deal with Leigh after spotting his talent playing for Parr Labour Club in St Helens.
And after taking over the ship at Warrington, Murphy brought Chissie with him to partner Brian Brady and hooker Kevin Ashcroft in a front row that laid the platform for silverware and consecutive Challenge Cup Finals at Wembley.
Murphy, who made Chissie his captain for the 1974/75 season, said: “First of all I was surprised about his pace. He had tremendous pace for a big man and a good pair of hands. He was a very hard, solid lad but also a good footballer.
“His passion to play the game was there. He always wanted to do things he couldn’t do – like catching wingmen. One of his ambitions was to catch Keith Fielding (Salford).
“People used to look at him and suspect he couldn’t run, but six times out of seven he would catch them. He was a great competitor, he wanted to win at everything.
“He was very important in the pack we built at Warrington.
“There was no pack in the rugby league that would take anything out of them.
“Chissie was one of those lads who was made for the big occasions and loved winning and hated losing.”
And he could handle himself among even bigger men, bruising props of his era like six-footers Jim Mills at Widnes and Les Tonks at Featherstone.
Murphy said: “He was only about 5ft 9ins but didn’t have a faint heart. He knew what he had to do and when he had to do it and was not afraid of taking a knock or giving one. He was a very good player.
“There are not many big lads who can catch wingmen, sidestep, pass a ball, make a break and score tries – and he had the lot. He was a great signing for me and I was always proud to have him in my side.”
Chissie stayed in touch with the professional game as a member of the Warrington and St Helens past player associations.
He leaves behind wife Carol, sons Lee and Phil, daughters Jeanette and Michelle, and seven grandchildren.
CHISSIE'S RECORD 1967-85
Appearances: 166 Tries: 28
Appearances: 210 Tries: 29
Appearances: 24 Tries: 0
Appearances: 39 Tries: 2
Appearances: 10 Tries: 0
Appearances: 6 Tries: 0
Appearances: 5 Tries: 1
Club total: 574 games, 72 tries
England: 5 (Wales twice, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea
Great Britain: 2 (Australia, New Zealand)
League and trophy success
1972/73: League Leaders’ Rose Bowl
1973/74: Captain Morgan Trophy, Player’s No6 Trophy, Challenge Cup, Club Championship
1974/75: BBC2 Floodlit Trophy r-up, Challenge Cup r-up
1981/82: Lancashire Cup
1976/77: Premiership Trophy
1977/78: Challenge Cup r-up
1980/81: John Player Trophy r-up