TRIBUTES have been paid to a Leigh rugby league legend and “gentle giant” who died on Sunday.
Charlie Pawsey, who played second row and made 216 appearances in eight years at Hilton Park, died at the age of 88 after a short battle with lung cancer.
Charlie was a key member of the Leigh side which won the Lancashire Cup in 1952 against St Helens, and reached the final in 1949 and 1951.
Charlie, who was recognisable on the pitch by his trademark scrum cap, also made eight appearances for Great Britain and captained his country on tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1954, including one of rugby league’s most memorable matches against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which the referee abandoned after the contest degenerated into a mass brawl.
He also tasted international success with England in the 1953-4 International Championship, and won the County Championship with Lancashire in 1952-3.
However, Charlie started out as a footballer on Manchester United’s books, and only started playing rugby league by accident.
Son Charlie said: “One day the football was off so he went to watch his mates play rugby, he went out on the pitch in his own shoes and socks and never played football again.
“He was a very good dad and we have lots of very fond memories.”
Charlie’s exploits remain rugby league folklore to this day, including the famous story of a match against Australia at Station Road in Swinton, when he tackled a player so hard they both vanished up the tunnel from which the Australian never re-emerged.
Leigh Centurions Chief Executive Trevor Barton said: “Charlie is a rugby league legend and a great servant to the game. We would like to extend our condolences to his family.”
Bob Shuttleworth, secretary of the Leigh RLFC Past Players Association, said: “It’s terrible news and I will miss him thoroughly.
“He was a fantastic rugby league player, an incredibly physical tackler, extraordinarily strong, and when he got the ball he was a good, hard runner.
“Not many people could take him on. There were a lot of good forwards at that time, but Charlie could handle them all.”
He leaves three children and five grandchildren. Funeral details are yet to be announced.