Billy Boston

Last updated

Billy Boston
MBE
Personal information
Full nameWilliam John Boston
Born (1934-08-06) 6 August 1934 (age 87) [1]
Butetown, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales
Playing information
Rugby union
Club
YearsTeamPldTGFGP
CIACs
1950 Neath
1952 Pontypridd 11005
Total11005
Rugby league
Position Wing, Centre
Club
YearsTeamPldTGFGP
1953–68 Wigan 486+2478701448
1969–70 Blackpool Boro 1150015
Total499483701463
Representative
YearsTeamPldTGFGP
1954–62 Great Britain 31240072
1955Welsh XIII10003
1955 Other Nationalities 250015
1956English XIII11003
1954-62 GB tour games 275300159
1957 British XIII 140012
1954 GB v France 11003
Source: [2] [3]

William John Boston, MBE (born 6 August 1934) is a Welsh former professional rugby league footballer who played as a wing or centre. Born in Cardiff, Wales, Boston started his career as a rugby union player before joining Wigan in 1953. He spent the next 15 years at Wigan, where he scored a club-record 478 tries in his 488 appearances for the club. He finished his career at Blackpool Borough before retiring in 1970. He also represented Great Britain in 31 Test matches, and was part of the team that won the 1960 Rugby League World Cup. [3]

Contents

Regarded as one of the sport's greatest ever players, Boston scored a total of 571 tries in his career, making him the second-highest try scorer in rugby league history. He is an original inductee of the British Rugby League Hall of Fame, Welsh Sports Hall of Fame and Wigan Warriors Hall of Fame, and was appointed MBE in 1986.

Early life

Born on 6 August 1934 at Angelina Street, Butetown, Cardiff, Boston was the sixth of eleven children born to John Boston (a merchant seaman from Sierra Leone) and Nellie who came from Cardiff's Irish community. [4]

Rugby Union

Boston began his rugby union career with the newly formed Cardiff Internationals Athletic Club. CIACS (pronounced "kayaks") represented Grangetown, Cardiff Bay, Butetown and the Docks areas of the city, and the team's makeup reflected the multinational nature of those communities. Boston also represented the Cardiff Schoolboys team in the late 1940s and went on to represent Wales in both the boys clubs' internationals and at Youth level. [4] The young Boston was an integral part of the CIACs "invincible" season of 1951–52, where the team won all of their 32 games. [5] Boston was already attracting attention and was given opportunities at two famous Welsh clubs, representing Neath RFC in 1950 and Pontypridd RFC in 1952. However, Boston repeatedly stated his wishes to represent Cardiff RFC, telling one journalist that he cried after signing for Wigan as he knew his dreams of playing rugby union for Cardiff and Wales were over. [4]

The lack of an offer from Cardiff remains a contentious issue. As Cardiff passed on other black and mixed race players from CIACs and the docks area (like Johnny Freeman and Colin Dixon, who both had successful rugby league careers), it has been suggested that the club had an issue with racism. [6]

Rugby League career

Boston was called up for National Service with the Royal Signals at Catterick, North Yorkshire, and was scouted by a number of Rugby League clubs. On 13 March 1953 Wigan chairman Joe Taylor and vice-chairman Billy Gore travelled to Boston's home in Cardiff and offered him £1,000 to sign for them. Although that was very large offer, Boston's mother rejected it on his behalf. A second offer of £1,500 was made in cash, and the money was spread out on the table in five pound notes to show the family how much money it was. Boston later stated that he still didn't want to sign the contract and his mother told him "Don't worry son, I'll get rid of them for you. I'll ask them for so much that they'll go home." Boston's mother told the delegation that Billy would only sign for £3,000, double the increased offer. Within a minute the delegation agreed to the terms. Boston stated that he still did not want to sign, but his mother had given their word, and Boston signed the contract. [7]

Boston made his 'A' team début a crowd of 8,000 assembled inside Central Park, Wigan. He made his first team début against Barrow in November 1953 scoring a try.

Billy Boston played stand-off in Wigan's 8–13 defeat by Oldham in the 1957–58 Lancashire Cup Final during the at Station Road, Swinton on Saturday 19 October 1957.

For the next fifteen seasons he was a living legend and played his final game in 1968. With Boston on the right wing and Eric Ashton playing at right-centre, Wigan had one of the best combinations in the history of the game. Both players scored two tries in Wigan's 1959–60 Northern Rugby Football League season Championship final victory. Boston had an astonishing turn of speed for a big man and had the ultimate side step and was also able to hand off opponents with apparent ease.

Boston also played 31 games for Great Britain, and was the first player to score four tries in a game against New Zealand. He was the first non-white player to be selected to tour Australia and New Zealand in 1954, on which he set a new record of 36 tries in 18 games. Boston also played in the 1962 tour, scoring a further 22 tries. [8]

Billy Boston also represented Great Britain while at Wigan between 1952 and 1956 against France (1 non-Test match). [9]

With BBC television coverage increasing in the late-1950s, armchair fans as well as terrace supporters were able to witness Billy Boston in action. He beat Johnny Ring's record of 368 tries and went on to score a record 478 for Wigan], [10] a record that will probably never be broken. Boston also twice equalled the then Wigan club record of seven tries in a game, only surpassed since by Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards.

Billy Boston played left-centre in Wigan's 13–9 victory over Workington Town in the 1957–58 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 10 May 1958, in front of a crowd of 66,109 [11] played right wing and scored two-tries in the 30–13 victory over Hull F.C. in the 1958–59 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 9 May 1959, in front of a crowd of 79,811, [12] and played right wing in the 20–16 victory over Hunslet in the 1964–65 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8 May 1965, in front of a crowd of 89,016. [13]

Billy Boston played right wing, i.e. number 2, and scored a try in Wigan's 16–13 victory over Oldham in the 1957–58 Lancashire Cup Final at Station Road, Swinton on Saturday 29 October 1966. [14]

Billy Boston represented Other Nationalities (RL) while at Wigan, he played right-centre in the 2–19 defeat by St. Helens at Knowsley Road, St. Helens on Wednesday 27 January 1965, to mark the switching-on of new floodlights. [15]

Towards the end of his career, Boston played for Blackpool Borough, making his final appearance in 1970. He scored a total of 571 tries in his career, making him the second highest all-time try scorer in the history of the game after Brian Bevan.

Boston became one of fewer than twenty-five Welshmen to have scored more than 1,000-points in their rugby league career. [16]

After retirement

After finishing his playing career, he took over the running of the Griffin Hotel pub near Central Park until his retirement. In 1986, he was appointed MBE for his services to the game of rugby league, and the Billy Boston Stand at Central Park was named in his honour. Similarly, the East Stand at the DW Stadium was officially renamed after Billy Boston in 2009. In December 2020 Boston was named as one of three Welsh rugby league players to be honoured with a new statue in Cardiff Bay, the other two being Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan. [17]

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References

  1. "Birth details at freebmd.org.uk". freebmd.org.uk. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  2. eraofthebiff.com
  3. 1 2 "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 Jackson, Peter (5 December 2016). "Billy Boston: Welsh rugby legend who never played at the Arms Park". BBC. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  5. "Our History". CIACs RFC.
  6. Hitt, Carolyn (16 May 2020). "The lost Welsh rugby heroes who never got to play union for Wales because they were black". Wales Online. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  7. Jackson, Peter (5 December 2016). "Billy Boston: Welsh rugby legend who never played at the Arms Park". BBC.
  8. Cummings, Thomas (24 February 2010). "Legends: Billy Boston". Love Rugby League. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  9. Edgar, Harry (2007). Rugby League Journal Annual 2008 Page-110. Rugby League Journal Publishing. ISBN   0-9548355-3-0
  10. "RECORDS" Archived 28 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine at wiganwarriors.com
  11. "1957-1958 Challenge Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  12. "1958-1959 Challenge Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  13. "1964-1965 Challenge Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  14. "1966–1967 Lancashire Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  15. Cook, H.B. (1965). Programme - St. Helens versus Other Nationalities. St. Helens Rugby F.C. Ltd.
  16. Robert Gate (1988). "Gone North – Volume 2". R. E. Gate. ISBN   0-9511190-3-6
  17. "Boston, Risman & Sullivan to be honoured". BBC Sport. 2 December 2020.