Representative Honours: Wales. Great Britain Tour to Australia 1979
Mel James by Dave Dooley:
Mel James, the powerful Welsh workhorse, emerged as the iron man in the front row of Saints teams in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was signed from Swansea RU club in October 1972 and made his debut against Bradford Northern in the same month. In his first season he played both at prop and in the second row collecting four tries along the way. The first of these touchdowns was in the 33 points to 14 away victory over Blackpool Borough. Mel was supremely strong with an excellent offload in the tackle and was renowned as a fierce tackler. The 6 feet 1 inches, 15 and a half stone ex Swansea RU captain had slotted into the Saints attacking formation as the club came to grips with limited tackle rugby, often taking up the first tackle. James had settled down very well in the Saints` pack when he suffered an horrendous broken leg in the 11 points to 7 victory over Australia on the 13th. of November 1973.
This cruel blow kept Mel out of the game for 16 months. He returned on the 7th of March 1975 just as Saints were romping to the First Division Championship. His nine appearances at the end of the season were not enough to secure a winners medal as these were awarded to the 17 first teamers who had made the most league appearances on the teamsheet.
Thankfully full fitness was regained for the treble winning season of 1975/6. Mel played in the 1975 BBC TV Trophy Final when Saints defeated Dewsbury by 22 points to 2. He was substitute in the 1976 Challenge Cup Final 20 points to 5 victory over Widnes, coming on to the field as a late replacement for John Mantle as Saints blitzed the `Chemics` in the last 13 minutes of the game. In the Premiership Final against Salford Mel was instrumental in wearing down the Salford defence paving the way for the Saints` backs to pick up the scraps and wrap up the match with a late points surge.
The following season saw Mel`s stature grow even more as he took more responsibility in driving the pack forward. He rounded off the year with a second helping of Premiership glory as Saints ran out winners over Warrington by 32 points to 22 in the Swinton sunshine. That day Mel scored Saints final try that finally nailed down the Wires coffin. In the 1977/8 season Mel added a new dimension to his game as he developed a hunger for crossing the opposition`s tryline. He scored ten tries in that campaign from 41 matches, a feat which proved to be his career best season`s total. This haul included two tries in the 23 points to 7 away victory over Wigan.
Mels final four seasons flourish coincided with an unusual void in the Saints trophy cabinet as the club rebuilt the side around a nucleus of young, local talent. He played the role of the elder statesman of the pack. His toughness was greatly admired by his team-mates. Mel James only ever played rugby league for the Saints through a twelve season career.
On the international scene Mel scored one try in 11 appearances for Wales. He was also selected for the 1979 Lions Tour down under but failed to make the test team.
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