Cliff Watson: Former St Helens and Great Britain prop forward dies, aged 78

Cliff Watson helped St Helens win the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1961 and again in 1966
Cliff Watson helped St Helens win the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1961 and again in 1966

Former St Helens and Great Britain prop forward Cliff Watson has died in Australia, at the age of 78.

London-born Watson, who had been battling cancer for several years, passed away at his home on the outskirts of Sydney.

After joining Saints in 1960, Watson played in 373 matches, including the 1961 and 1966 Challenge Cup final wins.

He won 30 GB caps from 1963-71, including the World Cups of 1968, when he captained his country, and 1970.

Watson then finished his career in Australia, after making the pioneering move north to the then only professional code of rugby with another St Helens favourite, Tommy Bishop, in 1971.

He helped Cronulla reach their first Grand Final in 1973 before going on to coach Wollongong.

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"Cliff's time at the Sharks was relatively short compared to the rest of his career but his impact and influence on the club is revered to this day," said NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg.

"He led from the front, he was one of the greatest front-rowers for Great Britain ever and left an incredible mark on Cronulla as well as the game in Australia."

Cronulla will honour the memory of Watson at their home game against Parramatta on Saturday, with a minute's silence before kick-off. The NRL team will also wear armbands.

Watson first made his move north to the professional ranks while playing rugby union in the West Midlands for Dudley Kingswinford, when he responded to an advertisement placed by St Helens in the Sporting Chronicle for "top-class rugby union forwards".