Anthony Karalius by Dave Dooley: This highly talented ball playing forward was a member of the famous Widnesian Karalius clan. Tony was a highly adaptable player who played equally well at hooker, in the second row or at loose forward. He was signed from the Widnes club in January 1967 and made his debut at loose forward against Oldham on February 17th the same year. Tony made just 20 appearances in his first two and a half seasons with the Saints. However, at the start of the 1969/70 season some sparkling form helped to oust the evergreen Bill Sayer from the hooking role. Tony was a marvellous exponent of releasing the ball in the tackle utilising his powerful arms and spade-like hands to great effect. His vision and tactical awareness close to the line were instrumental in securing points galore from short-range attacks.
After playing hooker for much of the 1969/70 season, cruel fate intervened and Tony was injured as Saints progressed towards the 1970 Championship Final against Leeds. The redoubtable `Sos` Sayer deputised brilliantly as the Saints emerged victorious by 24 points to 12. Tony was not to be denied 12 months later however, as a rampant injury-free Karalius took to the Swinton field against the `old foe` Wigan. Tony was all over the pitch that day keeping the ball alive and defending manfully especially when Saints were reduced to just 12 men after John Mantle had been sent off in the second half. Billy `the bandit` Benyon`s last minute plunge over the line supplied Tony with his first major honour in Saints` colours. Two weeks later Saints trounced an `out of sorts` St Gaudens outfit in the second leg of the European Club Championship. Tony completed a spectacular hat trick against the French champions as the Saints romped to a 62 points to nil annihilation.
The epic 1971/2 season witnessed Saints at the crest of a wave and Tony was surfing on top of his form. As the team challenged for all honours Tony managed to play in an incredible 49 matches up to the business end of the season. Disaster struck Karalius once again as injury prevented him from playing at Wembley against Leeds. He was forced to watch the match in a shirt and tie from the Saints` bench. The only consolation was watching the Saints outstay a determined Leeds revival to take the Challenge Cup by 16 points to 13. Tony was not available the following week for the Championship Final as Saints this time went down to the same Leeds outfit. In a season that had seen Tony`s game grow from strength to strength, rewarded by county and international call-ups, it was a bitter end to the campaign. Notwithstanding, observers knew that Tony`s resilience and dedication would ensure that he would be back in the big time, back in the thick of the action.
The next two seasons were a trophy free zone at Knowsley Road but a richly talented Tony Karalius and his accomplished colleagues started the 1974-5 season with one of the most experienced and well-balanced squads ever to wear the Saints kit. Karalius the playmaker created havoc in the opposition`s defence week after week as Saints went through the league programme with only three defeats and being crowned League Champions some nine points ahead of nearest challengers, Wigan.
As more trophies beckoned in the 1975/6 season, Tony remained relatively injury-free and he never missed another major final for the Saints. Tony`s treble started with the 22 points to 2 victory over Dewsbury in the BBC TV Trophy Final. The "Dads Army" Challenge Cup Final of 1976 introduced Tony as one of the team`s most notable lieutenants. The magnificent mature pack of 1976 consistently outperformed the Widnes six in the Final, with Tony Karalius oiling the wheels with his tiger-like defence and probing attacks. His signature `long-arm` offload in the tackle were in evidence as he combined with Jeff Heaton to send the gritty scrum half under the posts in the 68th minute and seal his hometown club`s fate. Two weeks later Tony rounded off the season in style as he finished off a superb crossfield attack by scampering under the sticks to sink the `Red Devils` of Salford by 15 points to 2 in the 1976 Premiership Trophy Final.
The same season had also seen the rise of an up and coming hooker by the name of Graham Liptrot. Such was Graham`s form in the 1976/7 campaign that Eric Ashton had the luxury of playing Tony in the second row or launching either player from the substitute`s bench. In the 1977 Premiership Final it was Liptrot in the number nine jersey and Tony on the sub`s bench. True to form Saints outclassed the Wire by 32 points to 20 and Tony replaced George Nicholls to collect his last winner`s medal with the Saints.
The tough but skilful Karalius gained a total of 5 Great Britain caps and represented Lancashire on four occasions in his time with the Saints. He was transferred to Wigan in October 1978 after making over 350 appearances for the club and being a key player in Saints` glory trail of the late sixties and 1970s.
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