Philip James Veivers by Dave Dooley: Phil Veivers was signed by the Saints as an appendage to the deal which brought the great Mal Meninga to the Saints in 1984. Along with Mal he was at the Southern Suburbs Club in Brisbane but was kept out of the first team by another fabulous full back, Gary Belcher. Although Mal Meninga made a huge impact in the season he was at Knowsley Road, it was Veivers who would shine like a diamond for years to come in the famous red and white. Phil became one of the most reliable and consistent high performers of all time. As the last line of defence he was a brilliant tackler with impeccable positional play. Under the high bomb he was magnificent and in attack he was a naturally open footballer with superb timing in joining in the line and could sniff out a support try with the best of them. He made his debut, along with Meninga on October 7th., 1984. Three weeks later he was marching out at Central Park to take on Wigan in the Lancashire Cup Final. The fantastic victory by 26 points to 18 was marred by the fact that Phil was injured early in the piece, and had to be replaced by the ubiquitous Roy Haggerty. Nevertheless, Veivers was on hand to receive his winner's medal at the end of the game.
In his first campaign with the club Phil chimed into the line beautifully to bag 13 tries as party of a Saints attack that was on fire with 1267 points in all matches during the 1984/5 season. He scored braces against Keighley and Hull. In the latter match Phil also showed another weapon from his armoury as he chipped in with a drop goal in a 47 points to 18 win. The last match of the season was the 1985 Premiership Final when the Saints played some enthralling rugby to defeat Hull KR by 36 points to 16. Phil demonstrated his anticipation and support skills by finishing off a move to cement Saints' early lead in the game. Two winners' medals were a just reward for a fabulous first season with the Saints. The trend for English RL clubs was to sign 'Aussies' on a short term one year contract who would have thought that Phil would be at the same club for a full twelve seasons - unprecedented in the modern era of the game. Saints' supporters were just pleased that the one club was St Helens.
Phil was virtually an ever-present force in the Saints' side over the next seven seasons avoiding major injuries and playing on with the 'dreaded niggles'. It was interesting to note that Phil's new responsibilities coincided with a record run in the league which lasted from February to Boxing Day 1986. Within this period Paul made a real impact with some sensational displays. His security at the back provided greater confidence for the Saints in attack. His 31 appearances in the 1985/6 brought him five tries and a drop goal including a brace against Castleford as part of an impressive 62 points to 16 win.
His presence in the side was even more significant in the following campaign (1986/7). Phil made a blistering start to the season by scoring two braces of tries in the first two games against Leigh and Salford. Fabulous support play and another brace against Featherstone pushed his season total of tries to 14. Phil missed just two matches in this campaign - and Saints lost them both! The penultimate match of the 43 games was the 1987 Challenge Cup Final against Halifax. Phil along with his team-mates trudged off the Wembley pitch wondering how on earth they had managed to lose the cliff-hanger by 19 points to 18.
Phil continued to ride on a crest of the wave in the following season (1987/8). Veivers played a blinder in one of the best ever Saints' comebacks in the 1987 Boxing Day game at Central Par, Wigan. Saints were behind by 22 points to 6 at half time when they staged a fantastic attacking display that left the crowd breathless. Phil urged his men forward and scored two cracking tries as the Saints scored 26 unanswered points in a never to be forgotten contest. In the 1988 John Player Trophy Final Phil gave a dominant defensive display to resist a strong Leeds comeback in the second half. With man of the match Paul Loughlin playing out of his skin, Phil's organisation of a second half defensive campaign and Neil Holding's cheeky drop goal meant that Captain Cooper held aloft the trophy following a nerve jangling 15 points to 14 victory. Towards the end of the season Saints were pressing for the Division One Championship when Shane Cooper returned to his homeland. Saints promptly lost three successive games to Wigan, Widnes and Leeds and consequently had to settle for the runners up spot in the league.
The 1988/9 season began for Phil with high hopes of leading the Saints to bigger and better things. However, this campaign brought about a reality check for all at Knowsley Road as Saints had a miserable season finishing seventh in the league and being whitewashed by the old enemy Wigan at Wembley. Phil's efforts could not be faulted throughout the 36 matches that he played. In the second half of the campaign Phil demonstrated his versatility by moving into the centres to accommodate Gary Connolly at full back.
The 1989/90 season was probably Phil's best at the Saints. He ended the season as top of the club?s appearances chart and joint top try scorer with new kid on the block Alan Hunte on 21 tries for the season. Phil's haul included two hat tricks against Runcorn and Barrow. His adaptability was demonstrated by the positions he played that year - full back, centre and loose forward as the occasion demanded. On the general club front the experimentation with player combinations continued with the team playing no fewer than 36 players over the campaign. Although ending up close to the top of the league as the highest scorers, some inconsistencies were denying the team and Phil of the big prizes.
In the 1990/1 campaign the Saints yet again rattled up the points unfortunately the side was defensively stretched in many games and 11 losses in the league left Cooper's men in sixth position in the league. After a fabulous performance in the 19 points to 2 semi-final win over Widnes in the Challenge Cup semi-final, Phil got the nod to start the Challenge Cup Final against the old enemy at full back ahead of Gary Connolly. However, Saints fell at the final hurdle as Wigan held on to a handy half time lead to prevail by 13 points to 8. This third successive loss was to be Phil's last chance to pick up a Challenge Cup winner's medal.
In the 1991/2 campaign Phil reverted to his full back role in most games with Gary Connolly moving into the centres. He chimed into the line all season to collect 13 tries including braces against Swinton, Wakefield and Rochdale Hornets in the 1991 Lancashire Cup Final. In this last match Phil played stand off and was on hand to seal victory in a close encounter.
The 1992/3 season witnessed a serious challenge for the full back berth from David Lyon. Phil made just 12 starts in the season and came on a substitute on 9 occasions scoring just a solitary try in the home match against Hull.. In the latter role he played his part when the Saints whipped the boys from Wigan by a fabulous score-line of 41 points to 6. Everyone felt that the balance of power was finally shifting westwards over Billinge Lump after that game but at the end of the season Saints lost out to Wigan on points difference at the top of the table following an 8 points all drawn match at Central Park. Finally, some consolation came however in the last match of the season as the Saints defeated Wigan by 10 points to 4 in the 1993 Premiership Final at Old Trafford. Phil was substitute that day but remained on the bench throughout the eighty minutes.
The loss of Gary Connolly in the backs and Kevin Ward in the pack was too great for the following campaign as Saints slumped to eighth place in the league. Phil was as steady as a rock in a very much a stop- start affair as the team struggled to gain any consistency. Veivers found himself mostly in the centre during that campaign. At the end of the 1993/4 season, the Saints were again disappointed to be staring at an empty trophy cabinet.
Phil's eleventh season at the club saw him vying for the stand off role with Tommy Martyn. A brace of tries in the away fixture at Castleford. Phil was very much the father figure at the club this season and greatly helped some of the younger players settle into life at Knowsley Road. In 1995 Phil was granted a well-earned testimonial. The truncated centenary season of 1995/6 brought just 12 appearances for Phil as the Saints prepared for life as a fully professional outfit.
The Challenge Cup campaign of 1996 saw the genial Aussie involved in the first three rounds and the semi-final coming on as substitute in each game. The semi-final victory over Widnes might have produced a fairy tale ending for Phil's career at Knowsley Road. He even played in the inaugural game of the 1996 Super League season when the Saints demolished Workington Town by 62 points to nil. In that match Phil had a stroll in at the corner for his last ever try for the club in his last ever match. Soon after he was transferred to Huddersfield where his experience would be invaluable to the Yorkshiremen.
His 381 games (14th on the all-time list) for the club generated 98 tries (26th on the all-time list) and 5 drop goals. Throughout his time with the Saints Phil had a great rapport with the crowd. He became a permanent fixture at Knowsley Road for over a decade. Occasionally when I drift off during a match, I swear I can hear the ghostly chant of "Veivers, Veivers" haunting the popular side. Phil Veivers certainly left a lasting impression in the Saints folklore.
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