Vinty Karalius was a legend for the club playing over 250 matches mostly as a loose forward. Born on the 15th. October 1932 in Widnes, he signed for the Club from the famous RL hotbed, West Bank ARL club (Widnes), on 16th. October 1951. Vinty made his debut against Warrington in the 13 to 5 points home victory on the 2nd. April 1952. Vinty impressed as a nineteen year old and played out the season with another five matches without crossing the try line. A fitness fanatic at 6 feet and 14 stones he was to become the complete loose forward and one of the all time greats.
His first try, and only try of the 1952/53 season, was against Liverpool City on September 6th. 1952. Vinty played a total of 15 matches in that record-breaking for the Club season and vied for the number 13 jersey with Ray Cale. Indeed the Welshman Cale prevailed over Vinty in the big games being selected to play in the three finals that Saints contended that season the loss against Leigh in the Lancashire Cup Final, the defeat by Huddersfield at Wembley and the victory over Halifax in the Championship Final at Maine Road.
The following season was a similar tale with one notable exception. Vinty was selected to play in the Lancashire Cup Final against Wigan which resulted in a 16 points to 8 victory for the Saints in front of a 42 793 crowd. As his career progressed Vinty acquired a reputation as a brutal tackler especially as he refined his world famous ‘bear-hug’ tackle. That season also yielded a solitary try, albeit a crucial one, against Barrow in the Lancashire Cup first round. The 1954-55 season was a barren affair for both Vinty and the Saints. Both he and Ray Cale lost out to Walter Delves and Billy Blan as competition for the number 13 jersey intensified. The team finished a disappointing seventh in the league as Jim Sullivan attempted to blend a fresh side to wear the red hoop.
Vinty would doubtless view the 1955/56 season as the one in which he established himself as a regular first team player. Karalius played 31 games that season, scoring 8 tries and culminating with the loose forward berth in the first St Helens side to lift the Challenge Cup as the team defeated Halifax by 13 points to 2 at Wembley. It is interesting to note that Vinty played half of these matches in the second row as new signing Australian Max Garbler set his stall out for the number 13 jersey.
Although Vinty’s defensive qualities were always in evidence from the outset as the decade progressed Karalius carved out a reputation as a dictator of attacking play using his huge hands to serve his team-mates with beautifully timed passes. The 1956/57 saw Vinty cross the try line on 18 occasions including a hat-trick in the 59 points to 5 mauling of Barrow. Vinty played against the Australian touring side on November 24th. 1956 when the Saints inflicted a record defeat on the tourists by 44 points to 2. It was no surprise when the 25 year-old Vinty was selected along with four of his teammates to make the 1958 Tour to Australia.
During this tour Vinty cemented his tough reputation, one Aussie journalist wrote:
Long-jawed Vince Karalius, the wild bull of the Pampas, is a dedicated wrecker of Australian forwards.
In all Vinty played 10 times for Great Britain in his time with the Saints. He also won five Lancashire caps.
Karalius played a vital part in laying the foundations for many a Saints victory including the sensational 1959 Championship Final win by 44 points to 22 over a great Hunslet side. Vinty was the obvious choice to take over the captaincy of the Club when Alan Prescott retired. In this role he led the 1961 Challenge Cup winning team that defeated Wigan by 12 points to 6. Vince Karalius and Abe Terry were the survivors of the great Saints pack of the mid 1950s and both can lay claim to have played in two of the best ever packs of six to have graced Knowsley Road. Vinty also won a Lancashire Cup winners medal when the Saints defeated Swinton by 15 points to 9 in front of a crowd of over 31 000 at Central Park. This was the first occasion that he lifted a trophy for the Club. He repeated the pleasure in the same competition against the same opposition one season later, this time the victory score was 25 points to 9.
Vinty Karalius played 252 matches for the club. He scored 42 tries and kicked no goals for an aggregate score of 126 points. His brothers Dennis and tony also played First Team for the St. helens Club
The 1961/62 season was a transitional one for the Saints as the Club felt a need to build a new side to continue to challenge for the game’s top honours. His final match for the Club was against Leeds on the 13th. of January, 1962. Vinty was subsequently sold to his hometown club Widnes where he led that club to Wembley success in the 1964 Challenge Cup Final.
Outside the game Vinty built up a successful business and has lived comfortably on the Isle of Man for the rest of his days. The Widnes lad with Lithuanian grandparents, a Scottish father and Irish mother will be forever resident in the Saints Hall of Fame and in the hearts of all the people who were lucky enough to meet him and shake those enormous hands.
Sadly Vincent Karalius died on 13 December 2008 aged 76.