Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley has paid tribute to his friend and former team-mate Ricky Bibey following his sudden death at the age of 40.
The Wigan and St Helens prop played with and was coached by Rowley at Leigh, where the pair were born, and remained close friends.
Paying tribute to Bibey, Rowley opened up on the latest episode of the Love Rugby League podcast.
“I’ve not had the opportunity to say this in public anywhere, and I would see Ricky regularly as his partner’s son is in my boy’s class so we speak quite regularly,” he said.
“I was really sad to hear the news and very upset. I see him regularly and enjoy chatting. We are supposed to be watching our kids play rugby and we just end up talking about old stories.”
Paul Rowley: ‘He had a good heart’
Bibey won the Challenge Cup final with Wigan in 2002 and then again with Saints two years later, but it was at Leigh where Bibey and Rowley bonded for their hometown club.
“Ricky has always been a daft character in a good sense but a great character as well. I have a great picture of me and him getting sent off at The Willows. We are both lying on the fence sulking and had to get a taxi home as there was nowhere safe to stand in the stadium because we were getting so much heckling.
“When I took over at Leigh we only had to props – Ricky and Rob Parker and they were phenomenal for Leigh. As a person as well he had a good heart and I’m so sorry for his family and friends having to go through this. “
Bibey played his junior rugby at Leigh East, and also starred for Oldham and Wakefield, making 60 appearances for Trinity between 2007 and 2009.
Independent charity Rugby League cares has offered counselling support to Bibey’s family and friends.