Tributes pour in after death of rugby legend

Mick Martyn, the record Leigh try-scorer, who has died at the age of 81
Mick Martyn, the record Leigh try-scorer, who has died at the age of 81

Tributes have been paid to the former Great Britain international Mick Martyn after his death at the age of 81 following a short illness.

The Leigh second-rower turned out 328 times for his home-town side, scoring on a record 189 occasions, and he also holds the distinction of scoring in 11 consecutive matches in early 1959.

Part of the Martyn rugby league dynasty in the town, he was the elder brother of the late Tommy Martyn Senior, who died aged 69 last year, and the uncle of Tommy Martyn Junior, both Leigh legends.

Widowed last year, he is survived by his son Stuart and daughter Sue.

A Leigh Centurions spokesman said: "Leigh Centurions are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mick Martyn, the club’s all-time record try-scorer, after a short illness at the age of 81."

"Mick Martyn ranked amongst the greatest players ever to play for Leigh and together with his late younger brother Tommy and Tommy’s son Tommy junior the Martyn family has made an incredible contribution to their hometown club.

"Such was the enduring respect and affection held in the town for ‘Mighty Mick Martyn’ that when, 20 years after he had retired, a poll was held among supporters to name the refurbished bar under the Supporters’ Club stand after a Leigh player, his name was the one selected."

Alex Murphy, Leigh Centurions ambassador, said: “I went on tour with Mick in 1958 and he was one of the best second row forwards I’ve ever played with or against.

"That was probably the best Great Britain side that has ever toured and everyone had to play in nearly every match, including midweek games to be in contention for the Test side.

“Mick had pace, a good pair of hands and he could read a game. Put him through a gap and he could pass most wing-men. For most of his club career Leigh weren’t the greatest club side at that time but he stayed loyal to them and played all of his career there. He was part of an Ashes-winning tour and he was very proud of that.

“I rate him up there with the very, very best. I would have him in any of my sides without question. And above all he was a very, very nice guy.”

Derek Beaumont, Leigh Centurions owner, added: "As people we often loosely use the word 'legend' but where Mick is concerned and Leigh Centurions it is probably a word that doesn't even serve him justice for his contributions and achievements within it.

"The history of our club is a vital part of it and indeed provides the very foundations upon which it is built and Mick is a massive part of that.

"I wasn't fortunate to see him play but I was fortunate to meet him on a number of occasions and a truer, gentler, more humble man you could not possibly meet. You would not think for one minute he had been a warrior on a Rugby League field.

"It will be very difficult to pay our respects to Mick as he is up there as our greatest ever player but we will do our best to do that at our first home friendly of the season in January where we will remember him and respect him as close as possible to the manner in which he respected and performed for our great club.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his loving family, some of whom are close personal friends of mine. This is a very sad day in the history of our club."

One of seven children born to Tommy and Mary Martyn at the family home in Leigh's Thomas Street, Mick played his early rugby with Leigh St Joseph’s and also played for Bickershaw Collieries and for the Wigan Road WMC side.

He was in the Open Age League as a loose forward and second-row forward when he was 15. Mick signed for Leigh in November 1952 and, after turning out regularly for the A team, made his debut versus Dewsbury in September 1954.

As part of a stellar career he also scored 23 times during a 1958 tour of Australia, a record which still stands today.

His final game for Leigh was in September 1967, while Murphy was player-coach, where he helped his team-mates beat Widnes 15-6 at Hilton Park in front of a crowd of 3,500.

Away from the game he had his own hairdressers, in Twist Lane, and later ran a grocery in Pennington, as well as holding various posts with the National Coal Board and local parks department.