Two more legendary players have been added to the provisional longlist of Rugby League heroes who are being considered for selection as the subject of a statue celebrating the sport’s historic association with Wembley Stadium.
Almost 40,000 votes have already been cast by fans since the Four Nations double header at Wembley last month, when the RFL published an initial long-list of 10 candidates for the commemorative statue that will be unveiled outside the national stadium.
That list was subsequently extended to 13 and today increased by popular demand to 15 with the addition of two Wigan stars who graced Wembley in their club’s famous cherry and white hooped jerseys 60 years apart – Jim Sullivan and Andy Gregory.
Sullivan, who captained Wigan in the first ever Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1929, and Gregory, a five-time winner with Wigan at Wembley, have each receive over a thousand nominations from fans eager that their achievements be recognised.
“The response from Rugby league fans around the world has been magnificent and it’s clear that there is massive support for our plans to unveil a commemorative statue at Wembley,” said RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
“I’m delighted, and not at all surprised, that both Jim Sullivan and Andy Gregory are commanding the support they have because both played important roles in the history of Rugby League at Wembley.
“We’d like to hear the views of as many people as possible before we take the selection process to the next stage and I would ask anyone who has not yet participated in this important search for a Wembley hero to come forward and let us know what they think.”
Fans can cast their vote for a Wembley hero until December 31, when the results will be considered by a specially convened panel comprising past and present players, coaches, media, administrators and the public.
The final 15-strong longlist in full is as follows:
Eric Ashton MBE
The first person to win the Challenge Cup as a captain, coach and chairman, Ashton spent his entire playing career at Wigan, scoring 231 tries and 448 goals in 497 appearances. Three Challenge Cup victories, an Ashes success and a World Cup triumph ensured he cemented his reputation as one of the greatest players in Rugby League history.
Billy Boston MBE
A prolific try-scorer during his career with Wigan and Blackpool Borough, the Welsh flier lit up Wembley on six occasions, winning three Challenge Cups. A member of the RL Hall of Fame, Boston scored 478 tries in 485 games for Wigan.
Jonathan Davies MBE
Another signing from Wales RU, Davies made a hugely successful cross-code switch with Widnes and Warrington. Equally at home at stand-off, centre and full-back, from where he scored a stunning try at Wembley in 1994 as Great Britain defeated Australia 8-4.
Shaun Edwards OBE
Won nine Challenge Cup finals at Wembley with Wigan and also appeared at the stadium with London Broncos in 1999. Edwards was the lynchpin of the Wigan side. Was sent off for a high tackle on Bradley Clyde of Australia at Wembley in 1994.
A huge talent, Fox remains a heroic figure at both Featherstone and Wakefield Trinity, with whom he won the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match at Wembley in 1968. His place in Cup legend is assured from that final, when he missed the last-kick conversion that would have won the game for Wakefield.
Neil Fox MBE
The younger brother of Don and Peter, Neil Fox scored a phenomenal 6,220 points during a career that took in six clubs, most notably Wakefield Trinity. A strong, powerful centre, his two tries and seven goals helped Trinity to victory over Hull at Wembley in 1960.
A five-time Wembley winner with Wigan, the scrum-half was the first player to win the Lance Todd Trophy twice. He also played twice at Wembley for his first club, Widnes and starred for Great Britain in their Wembley win against Australia in 1990.
Ellery Hanley MBE
Regarded by many as the greatest Rugby League player of all time, the three-time Man of Steel often saved his best for Wembley with Wigan and Great Britain. He won four Challenge Cup finals with Wigan, the first against Halifax in 1988 when he scored a sensational try.
Born and raised in Barrow, Willie Horne served his home-town club with distinction and captained them to three Challenge Cup finals in the 1950s, including a famous victory against Workington at Wembley in 1955. He represented Great Britain as a tourist in 1946 and 1950 and also captained England and Lancashire during his career.
Alex Murphy OBE
The scrum-half captained three different clubs at Wembley – St Helens, Leigh and Warrington – and is still held in high esteem by fans of all three clubs. A precocious talent, Murphy was outstanding in a Great Britain jersey, for which he collected 27 caps.
Martin Offiah MBE
‘Chariots’ is already celebrated at Wembley with a bar named after him in recognition of the wonder try he scored in the 1994 Challenge Cup final against Leeds, when he brought the stadium to its feet on an 80-metre run. He won four Challenge Cup finals with Wigan and represented Great Britain on 33 occasions.
Spent 27 seasons involved in the sport, steered his beloved Workington Town to victory in the Championship in 1951 and to a famous Challenge Cup victory at Wembley in 1952, becoming the oldest ever Cup winner at the age of 41. During a career with Salford, Workington and Batley, he established career records which place him second in terms of all-time appearances with 873, third in terms of points scored with 4,052 and fifth in terms of goal kicked with 1,678.
Clive Sullivan MBE
The flying Welsh winger remains a legendary figure in Hull, where he scored 250 tries for Hull and 118 for Hull KR. He captained Great Britain in the 1972 World Cup final and was on the wing for Hull KR in the Hull derby at Wembley in 1980.
A founder member of the RL Hall of Fame, Sullivan captained Wigan from full-back in the first Wembley Challenge Cup final of 1929, one of 774 appearances for the club he joined from Cardiff RU as a 17-year-old before going on to become one of the sport’s most prolific goalkickers.
The New Zealander was a member of Wigan’s first Challenge Cup winning team in 1911 and later went on to be a hugely successful manager at Salford. The man of the match award in the Challenge Cup final, the Lance Todd Trophy, commemorates his contribution to the sport.
To vote for any of the 15 players on the longlist list – or to submit their own nomination or idea – fans can nominate their chosen player in a special voting form (attached); by visiting the RFL’s webpage at www.therfl.co.uk; the Super League website www.superleague.co.uk; and via an on-line poll. Votes can also be placed via any of the RFL’s official Facebook channels.