MIKE 'Stevo' Stephenson has joined in the tributes to Jackie Melling, the former Warrington centre, who died on Easter Sunday aged 77.

Melling made 173 appearances for the club between 1963 and 1971, scoring 65 tries and captaining the side during the 1967-68 season.

Stevo, the former Sky Sports commentator, has also set the record straight, saying: “Jackie Melling did not knock my two front teeth out.”

Since Melling’s death, a story has gained ground that the former Wire star clashed with the then Dewsbury hooker, possibly at a match at Crown Flatt in March 1970. But Stevo, now 75 and living in Australia, insists it is not true.

“I lost my top set through a disease in my gums,” said Stevo. “The only teeth I had knocked out were at Manly Oval against Manly Warringah when I was playing for Penrith in Australia in about 1975. So Jackie must have had a very long elbow.

“It was an accident. I went in to tackle a guy from Manly and he was swinging round to try to offload and he caught me fair and square right on the teeth with his elbow.

“It was so drastic that the referee had to put his finger down into my mouth to release my tongue and as soon as he did that my teeth fell to the ground.

“There were no gum shields in those days and not many players finished their careers with a full set of teeth. It was part and parcel of the game.

“I love watching this modern game but no scrummaging, no pushing, no shoving, no striking for the ball, no having a head butt competition. I would have still been playing when I was 60!”

Stevo has fond memories of his visits to Wilderspool as a player, particularly for the 1973 Championship semi-final against a Warrington side under the guidance of player-coach Alex Murphy when Dewsbury pulled off a shock 12-7 victory.

He recalled: “In the tunnel before the kick-off Murphy said ‘I don’t know why you’ve bothered to turn up.’ In other words, you are going to get walloped.

"We had a Welsh winger Gregg Ashcroft who wasn’t the most reliable at catching the high ball. In fact, he wasn’t even the most reliable person to catch a pass. You had to put it into his bread basket.

"Murphy tried to crucify him with kicks and he never dropped one ball all night. Murphy must have kicked to him 15 times.”

Stevo is also backing his fellow Yorkshireman Daryl Powell to be a success as Warrington coach.

“He is a decent bloke,” said Stevo. “He has turned some average players into very good players and it takes a good coach to be able to do that.

“Warrington, over the years, have been a little bit big-headed and maybe held onto a few players longer than they should. I will put it that way.”

Stevo is loving retirement in Australia but still makes frequent visits back to England to see his family and his good friend David Hughes, the owner of London Broncos, and will be here for the Rugby League World Cup in October and November.

One day during the tournament – November 11 – will be particularly special as it marks 50 years since Great Britain last won the World Cup by holding Australia to a 10-10 draw in Lyon with Stevo scoring the crucial try.

The surviving members of that team, which was coached by the former Warrington centre Jim Challinor, are planning to meet up to celebrate and reminisce.

Stevo is still in regular contact with his former Sky Sports colleague, Warrington’s Eddie Hemmings, and the pair work together on a weekly podcast, Eddie & Stevo the Podcast, which now runs to 55 episodes.

Jackie Melling was one of the most respected figures in the game. As well as playing for Warrington, he represented England Under-24s and made three appearances for Lancashire.

After he retired from playing, he also coached at Wigan St Patrick’s, the leading amateur club.

His private family funeral is to be held early in May.