Further Info: Awarded the MBE in 2009 Honours List
Stephen Prescott by Dave Dooley:
This son of second row Saint`s starlet, Eric Prescott, was signed from local outfit Nutgrove ARLC on the 26th of October, 1992. Steve`s speed, excellent positional play, safe hands under the bomb and brilliant attacking prowess combined to create one of Saints` greatest and most prolific full backs. In just five playing seasons at Knowsley Road Steve became only one of nine players to score 50 tries and kick 50 goals for the club. His try to game ratio of 0.44 is unprecedented for a full back at the club.
Steve came on a substitute to make his first team debut on the 19th of September 1993 as Saints prevailed over Leigh by 34 points to 16. He scored his first points for the Saints kicking a goal in the away 12 points to 2 victory over the `Roughyeds` later that season. In that first campaign signs of his potency were exhibited in the 68 points to nil demolition of Leeds as Steve collected a personal haul of 14 points from 5 goals and a try. Prescott ended his first campaign having scored three tries and 29 goals from just 15 appearances. Moreover, Steve`s fine form had established his reputation with coach Eric Hughes.
The 1994/5 was a glorious campaign for Steve. He captured the number one jersey, consigning a player of the quality of David Lyon to the centres. His linking up with the attacking line was exceptional and Steve`s adventure brought him a fabulous 20 tries return from 35 matches. This haul included a hat trick in the third round replay of the Regal Trophy against Batley. The Saints were building towards the Super league era at this time and Steve was very much characteristic of a side that was assembled to attack the opposition. Although the side wasn`t winning any trophies their potential was there for all to see. The truncated centenary campaign of 1995/6 was very much a final training session for the full professional era. The measure of the quality of a St Helens side is how well it performs against its deadly rivals from Wigan. In the third game of the season Saints were thrashed by the Riversiders by 52 points to 20 at Knowsley Road. One of the few positives to be taken from that dismal performance was the form of Steve Prescott, who somehow managed to lighten the gloom with two well-taken tries. With the recruitment of Paul Newlove and the maturation of other personnel, by the end of the campaign Saints were running Wigan close in a tightly fought Regal Trophy Final, that featured some great defence by Prescott. Another brace of touchdowns against Sheffield Eagles rounded off another successful campaign for the cheery full back.
The introduction of summer rugby during Super League One was tailor made for a full back with the attacking qualities of Steve Prescott. Saints preparations for the Challenge Cup run under Shaun McRae went without a hitch apart. In the first match of the season when Saints were drawn away to Castleford in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup, Saints were home and dry with a hew minutes remaining when `Cas` launched a huge bomb, which Steve brilliantly defused near his own tryline. Without resting on this particular laurel, Steve instantly made a break and left the Castleford defence for dead. With another 70 metres of ground covered, Steve brilliantly rounded the full back for a sensational conclusion to the contest. Steve was man of the match in the semi-final win over Widnes and was then on hand to star in a feast of attacking rugby which saw Saints prevail by 40 points to 32 in one of the greatest Challenge Cup Finals of all time. Prescott`s two tries that day were right out of the top drawer. The first was initiated by a brilliant Goulding cross kick which was skilfully knocked back by Danny Arnold to Scott Gibbs. The Welshman showed tremendous strength by holding off the Bulls` defence with one hand and delivering a perfect inside pass to the supporting Prescott who triumphantly slammed the ball down for Saints first points of the Final. Minutes later a Bobbie Goulding chip close to the Bradford tryline bounced back of the crossbar as Steve was mid-air. Unfortunately the woodwork robbed Steve of his second try. The same combination however was on hand soon after as Bobbie Chipped over the Bradford defence forty metres from the Bulls` tryline. Amazingly Steve volleyed the ball as it fell to earth and followed up magnificently to tap the ball over and dive on the ovoid for a breathtaking score. The game ebbed and flowed dramatically up to the last few minutes when Apollo`s killer punch finally domesticated the gallant Bradford Bulls. Steve proudly followed Bobbie Goulding up the Wembley steps, much as he had done throughout the match, to collect his winner`s medal.
The 1996 League campaign also bore witness to the high quality of Steve`s all round game. Prescott defused two high bombs in home league matches against Castleford and Workington to romp 80 metres each time for spectacular touchdowns. His safe hands were in further evidence in the vital and close encounter at Wilderspool. Steve literally got Saints off to a flying start as he followed up a Goulding bomb to snatch the ball ahead of an emptied handed Lee Penny and plunge over the tryline. Perhaps Steve`s most vital contribution in defence during the league season was in the away game against Castleford. With a few minutes to go Saints were pressing the Castleford team back on their tryline clinging to a slender lead, when the `Cas` attack broke though the Saints defence and carried the ball sixty metres into the Saints half. A beautiful inside pass sent speedy full back Flowers clear on his way to the line with Steve Prescott giving chase four metres behind. `Precky` ate up the gap and a fabulous tackle from behind ten metres from the Saints` line saved the day and the Championship. Conversely, the penultimate match of the campaign against Sheffield Eagles ably demonstrated the full range of Steve`s attacking prowess. His four tries that day began with a fabulous pick up and score of a Bobbie dazzler grubber kick. The second saw him leap like a salmon to pluck the ball out of the air and fall over the line to score. The third was a classical piece of supporting play and the last was the icing on the cake to a very special Saints try. From their own tryline a few timely passes found Anthony Sullivan on the left wing. Sully sped down the flank and before being tackled, offloaded to Bobbie Goulding on the halfway line. Bobbie`s little legs carried on the move and were rotating like an Isle of Man badge when he realised with 20 metres to go that the Eagles` defence was closing in. Goulding released a magical chip over the Sheffield defence and a diving Steve Prescott collected the ball and plunged over in one movement, strimming the sacred Knowsley Road turf at the same time. The following week against Warrington saw Steve and the lads seal the Championship with a dazzling attacking display and `doubles` were the order of the day. Steve`s 15 try haul in the inaugural Super League season include some absolute `belters`. Prescott was also on hand to kick 17 goals in matches when Bobbie Goulding was absent. In the summer Steve toured Australia with the Great Britain side after representing England previously.
The 1997 season started off in a similar vein as Saints marched to Wembley for a second successive year. Steve gave a masterly display in the Cup semi-final against Salford and was a tower of strength as the Saints subdued the Bradford attack in the Final. The 32 points to 22final score provided Steve with a second Challenge Cup winner`s medal. As Steve and the lads celebrated who would have thought that Saints fortunes were about to change. The team did not win another match in May and six consecutive World Club Challenge defeats provided an unwelcome culture shock for the Saints and the British game in general. The same competition provided a sad end to Steve`s career with the Saints as the 70 points to 6 defeat in Auckland proved to be his last match for the club.
In 1997 Steve was transferred to Hull Sharks where he continued his successful career.
Stephen Prescott The Life and Times of a true Sporting Legend
Alex Service pays his own special tribute
There are four words in particular that describe Stephen Prescott: competitive, resilient, courageous and inspirational. These qualities have been prevalent throughout his life, in which sport has played a dominant role. To reach the top in Rugby League like Stephen did, a fiercely competitive attitude is needed, together with great self-belief and courage. Stephen also had to overcome several set-backs during his sporting career and most recently, in the face of terminal illness, he has shown terrific courage and has become an inspirational figure to thousands, not just within the Rugby League community itself. The Stephen Prescott Foundation has been established to provide funds for both The Christie Hospital in Manchester one of the world’s leading cancer hospitals - and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, which offers help to those who have been seriously injured playing one of the world’s toughest sports. From a very early age sport became the major focus of Stephen’s life. His father, Eric, was a successful professional rugby league player with St.Helens, Salford and Widnes, so it is true to say that sport was ‘in the genes.’ Even in the early days it became apparent that Stephen would make his mark. He revelled in the challenging, competitive atmosphere of matches and his skills were much in demand to the extent that he played two sports soccer and rugby league, regularly on the same weekend. He attracted the attention of scouts from the St.Helens Rugby League club and achieved a burning ambition by signing for his home town team in the early 1990s. Rugby League is a physically demanding sport and Stephen was never the biggest of players. Initially it was thought that he was not going to make it, yet the club kept faith in him and, from some superb performances in the Reserves, he gradually forced his was into the First Team, first of all as a winger, then as a full-back the position he made his own at Knowsley Road. The full-back position is such a vital one which involves making crucial ‘one-on-one tackles,’ catching soaring kicks from the opposition and setting attacks in motion from ‘broken-field’ running. Stephen did all this and more. It was his pace that was his biggest asset and he scored many memorable tries for the Saints, including some fabulous ‘length-of-the-field’ efforts. The crowd really took to this flamboyant little guy who was prepared to give his all during a match, tackling and running above his weight. He was one of them, after all, and they loved him! Stephen became a full-time professional with the Saints with the advent of the European Super League in 1996. During this time he worked hard in the gym and became one of the strongest players at the club when body weight was taken into account. Stephen and the team also enjoyed a fabulous season overall with the club winning a memorable trophy ‘double’ of Challenge Cup and League their first such achievement for twenty years. It was a truly marvellous time for Saints’ supporters and the town of St.Helens itself. In the Challenge Cup final at Wembley against Bradford Bulls one of the greatest matches of them all - Stephen was superb. He scored two tries and was denied a hat-trick by the ball bouncing off the cross-bar when he surely would have caught it and grounded it over the line! Stephen was a virtual ever-present in the 1996 season and well-respected by his team-mates on and off the field. Indeed, the friendships made at the time were important in the organisation of a special match some eleven years later at Knowsley Road, when the ‘Boys of 1996’ were only too pleased to turn out for their former full-back for a special fund-raising ‘Legends’ game on his behalf. Stephen’s superb form meant further recognition in the game. He graduated to the full England international squad for the 1996 Super League European Championships. In his first match against France at Gateshead, Stephen scored two tries and kicked seven goals in England’s 73-0 success, breaking the previous points record set by another former Saint (and full-back) Geoff Pimblett. Stephen had also represented Great Britain Under 21s against Australia in 1994 and France in 1995. After the Australian game, Stephen was picked out by the Australian Coach Bob Fulton as having exceptional ability and recommended his promotion into the full Great Britain side for the Test Matches. At the end of the 1996 season, Stephen’s achievements at club level were recognised when he was selected for the Super League tour of Oceania and New Zealand, together with seven of his team-mates. Although he didn’t play in the Test Matches, it was a supreme honour for Stephen to be a member of the British rugby league elite. Clearly the years of dedication and determination to succeed had brought due reward for his efforts. Stephen returned from the tour to achieve further success with his club, as the Saints retained the Challenge Cup for the first time in their history, ironically against the same opponents as the previous year Bradford Bulls. He produced another marvellous display and was denied a sensational ‘length-of-the-field’ scoring opportunity only after a last gasp tackle from the Bradford defence. Saints’ fans loved his flamboyance and enthusiasm, yet there were troubled times ahead. 1997 proved to be a relative disappointment after Wembley and Stephen suffered an injury which blighted the rest of his campaign. At the end of the season, it was decided to transfer him to Hull Sharks a decision that did not exactly prove popular with the St.Helens fans and Stephen himself. Yet he was to show typical grit and determination which was to see him succeed in his new environment. Like the Saints’ fans, the Hull crowd love a battler and took Stephen to their hearts almost immediately. They appreciated his commitment to his new cause and he became the regular goal-kicker for the Sharks. After two seasons, however, financial problems meant that he was transferred to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, who as it happened, were hardly solvent themselves. Despite further difficult times when wages were not paid Stephen continued to gain the respect of his team-mates and supporters on the terraces with many fine displays for the Wildcats. Twelve months later, however, he was back at Hull (now minus their Sharks tag), where he remained until injury ended his career in 2003, ironically after representing his county, Lancashire, against Yorkshire at Odsal stadium in Bradford. He was loved by the Hull fans and made many friends in the city. The respect and affection was mutual. After his playing career came to an end, Stephen became a teacher at Hull Community College, in the Sports Department, where his enthusiasm and engaging personality made him a popular figure with students and staff alike. Apart from teaching a Level 1 BTEC course in Physical Education, which he helped to develop, he also coached the College’s Rugby League team with great success. Although his days as a Super League professional were over, Stephen continued to participate in sport by joining Hull Ionians Rugby Union club. Although the matches were still competitive, it was a chance to enjoy himself after the rigours of Super League and he relished the opportunity to learn new skills and generally muck in with his new team-mates. He also had a few games for the England International Vets XV, who relished the opportunity of obtaining the services of such an experienced rugby player. Unfortunately, just when Stephen was settling down in his teaching role, things were to take a turn for the worse. At the age of just 32, he was cruelly diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, or PMP, a rare tumour that has a tendency to grow very slowly over many years. The diagnosis came in the same week as the birth of his second child, Kobi, in September 2006. The Rugby League community responded superbly in the face of such news and pledged support both in financial and emotional terms. Stephen was able to have an operation at a specialist hospital in Basingstoke. It was a measure of his popularity that people came forward to help from all walks of life to help, not just from the Rugby League fraternity. One particularly poignant fund-raising gesture came from his former team-mates at Hull FC, who, ironically, were playing against another of Stephen’s former clubs, St.Helens in the 2006 Grand Final at Old Trafford. In front of a crowd of over 60,000 they entered the famous arena in special warm-up tops emblazoned with PRESCOTT on the back, which were later auctioned on his behalf. This was a clear indication of the man’s popularity and the tremendous respect he engenders from everyone who meets him. Stephen responded well to further treatment at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, (one of only two centres in Britain dedicated to the treatment of PMP), although there is still no cure for his condition. Yet Stephen steadfastly refuses to let the situation get him down. He was thankful for the many fund-raising efforts done on his behalf when his illness was diagnosed, but, being Stephen, the onus then shifted towards working tirelessly to help others in similar situations. The concept of undertaking his own fund-raising took shape in August 2007, after he was Guest of Honour at a Wigan Supporters versus St.Helens Supporters Charity Rugby League match. The game signified the starting point of the Steve Prescott Foundation, with two organisations close to his own heart set to receive the benefits of his own fund-raising activities: Christies Hospital in Manchester and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund. Backed by an enthusiastic Committee, the first major event was a 199 mile walk, beginning in Hull and finishing at Old Trafford, Manchester, before the Grand Final. All together, thirteen rugby league clubs were visited en route, with a total of £60,000 raised for the Foundation. Supporters from rival clubs walked side by side with each other for the cause, with twelve supporting Stephen the full distance of the walk itself. It was a difficult scenario for Stephen, who had only just finished a course of chemotherapy. Yet sheer grit, determination, plain stubbornness and the great camaraderie of friends and supporters enabled him to succeed. Stephen also had the privilege of kicking off in the special ‘All Golds’ versus ‘Northern Union’ match to celebrate the Centenary of the first-ever Test Match between England and New Zealand in 1907. The game was held at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium and for Stephen to be Guest of Honour was indicative of his high profile within the rugby league game itself. In May 2008 there was another challenge for Stephen. After months of hard training, punctuated by chemotherapy, he attempted the London Marathon, together with three former Rugby League players and team-mates: Chris Joynt, Dave Lyon and Terry O’Connor. Despite suffering from intense cramp along the way, he finished the run in 4 hours 32 minutes. He was disappointed not to beat his father Eric’s time from the same race some years previously! The event was a huge success, however, receiving extensive regional media coverage and raising £8,000 for the Foundation. Bardon Concrete, one of the leading companies in their field in the North West identified the Stephen Prescott Foundation in its Community Engagement Plan for further and on-going support, donating £10,000 in 2008. A major publicity coup for the Foundation came in March 2008, when it was announced that Hymix Ltd, in conjunction with Bardon Aggregates, were prepared to display the Stephen Prescott Foundation logo, together with Christies and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, on several of their readymix drums. The launch, at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Chorley was a huge success and those vehicles with the Foundation logos emblazoned on their ‘drums’ can be seen regularly plying the road and motorway networks of the North West of England. In July 2008 the Steve Prescott Foundation attempted it’s most ambitious project to date with Stephen playing a major role in organising a unique boxing event for former Rugby League players at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton. Former team-mates and opponents such as Steve Hampson, Garry Schofield, Anthony Sullivan - and even Oldham Roughyeds’ Chairman Bill Quinn - were more than willing to undertake weeks of training to take part in the contest. As part of the training, the contestants even visited Ricky Hatton’s gym in Manchester, when Ricky himself gave his full support for the event. Such activities have done much to bring together the Rugby League community in particular, who have always been extremely supportive in all of Stephen’s ventures. On the night itself, Stephen could not sit back and watch. He entered the ring and took on former European Middleweight Champion Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham in an exhibition bout which delighted the audience. The event raised £32,000, together with further awareness and publicity for the Foundation.
A second Trans-Pennine walk was planned for October 2008, but once again Stephen looked upon it as an opportunity to increase the level of challenge involved to push the boundaries further. This time, the Trans-Pennine walk encompassed 23 Rugby League clubs visited during a fortnight. The Grand Final match ball was also carried along the way. Several people took time off work to ‘go the distance’ to help make the walk a huge success. The National League clubs, in particular, embraced the participants and the Foundation concept with great hospitality. At Dewsbury, youngsters from Thornhill Community School greeted the walkers; at Batley, there was a strong compliment of juniors from the famous Batley Boys club. The walk had once again done much to unite communities on both sides of the Pennines and raised £40,000 for the Foundation. The match ball was delivered to Old Trafford on Grand Final day, after the walkers made the final approach to the stadium led by a Scots piper. Stephen was greeted by Mike Stephenson of Sky Sports at the end of the walk and as a result maximum publicity for the Foundation was ensured. Another boxing tournament was proposed for Batley’s Frontier Club on 1stApril 2009 essentially for players from National League clubs such as Featherstone, Batley, Hunslet and Bramley. Stephen managed to persuade the respective Chairmen of these clubs to release their players for this event, a near-impossible task in the first instance. Yet he received full support for his proposals and the event is set to raise £16,000 for the Foundation. Once again local communities were brought together for such a worthy cause. Stephen has always wanted to push back the barriers for each successive challenge undertaken by the Foundation. In August 2009 comes the most demanding of them all. This involves an international challenge, starting with cycling from Perpignan across France to the English Channel; then crossing the Channel by dragon boat, with further cycling back in England up to 12 miles from Wembley Stadium, when the participants will undertake a half-marathon before entering the stadium with the match ball for the 2009 Challenge Cup final. Needless to say an event of this nature required ‘blue chip’ sponsorship to the tune of £9,000, which has been provided by Carnegie of Leeds, who also sponsor the Challenge Cup competition itself. Like with the walks, disability is no barrier to participation. Pete Stephenson and Jimmy Gittins, who were both seriously hurt playing Rugby League, were delighted to put themselves forward for the challenge. The look of satisfaction and achievement after their first session of dragon boat training in Liverpool said it all! Stephen has developed into the perfect ‘front man’ and is an accomplished speaker when introducing his various challenges to the media on behalf of the Foundation and has undoubtedly helped to increase awareness of not just his own condition, but the valuable work of The Christie Hospital and the Rugby League Benevolent Fund. He has encompassed several different sports and activities for his challenges and this has included participation from a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds, who maybe would not have taken part in charity work but for his influence. Stephen is also a member of a strong, caring family, including his wife, Linzi and sons Taylor and Kobi, who have been totally supportive throughout his illness. Indeed, his younger brother, Neil, not only helped him with his preparation for the Marathon but also stepped into the ring for one of the bouts in the boxing spectacular at Bolton! The Rugby League community has clearly taken Stephen to their hearts. Despite his own extreme situation, he has become a beacon of hope for those in similar circumstances. He continues to fight against the odds something that has been apparent from his early years when he strove hard to reach the top in the most physically-demanding sport of them all. His positive personal qualities helped him to achieve on the rugby field, as a College Tutor and have been integral to his success with his Foundation work over the past few years. He has significantly raised the profile of the Rugby League Benevolent Fund and highlighted the importance of fund-raising for a specialist cancer hospital like The Christie. The Stephen Prescott Foundation is now recognised on a national and international basis. From his own experiences, he is always willing to offer support and solace and he remains an inspirational character for anyone who has been affected directly or indirectly by serious illness. Indeed, many people from all walks of life have been inspired by his sheer enthusiasm and determination. Stephen is a perfect role model for showing that it is possible to make a genuine difference and help other people despite facing insurmountable personal odds. He is a passionate believer that illness and disability should not prevent a person from undertaking challenges and achieving hitherto inconceivable personal goals. Overall, his achievements have been both significant and considerable. Given the nature of the man himself, there is considerably more to come!
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