Maurice Lindsay: Phil Clarke on former Wigan chairman and RFL chief executive’s ‘indelible mark’ on rugby league | Rugby League News

Phil Clark

Rugby League expert and columnist

Sky Sports pundit and former Wigan player Phil Clarke reflects on the impact Maurice Lindsay has had on rugby league; The death of the former Wigan chairman and former RFL chief executive at the age of 81 was announced on Tuesday

Last update: 05/17/22 19:23

Maurice Lindsay was a hugely influential figure in rugby league with both Wigan and the RFL

Maurice Lindsay was a hugely influential figure in rugby league with both Wigan and the RFL

It’s very common in sports for the stars to be players or coaches, but every 50 years or so someone comes along who leaves an indelible mark on their favorite game without ever crossing the white line.

They change the sport more than any player ever can, of course they make enemies along the way, but they are remembered long after their involvement has ended. Maurice Patrick Lindsay was certainly one of them (he had many nicknames, but we’ll stick to the one on his birth certificate!).

I first discovered Mauritius when my father, who played for Wigan in the 1960s and 1970s, became second team coach at Central Park. Maurice was one of the club’s four managers in the early 1980s, although clearly the most high-profile and vocal.

He wasn’t the one with the most money, but he was the one with the most charisma and he knew how to arouse the team’s interest. He was a showman and businessman at the start of Wigan’s rise from the Second Division and his time working as a bookmaker at horse and greyhound racing tracks had made him ‘street smart’ . He was fast between the ears, very entertaining and not afraid to take risks.

His name then became a word that could not be used in my house after he sacked my father, who in 1986 had been promoted to the first team. Wigan had finished second in the table and missed the league against Halifax by one point, but Maurice had decided he and the club wanted more, and he decided to bring in a new manager from Down Under.

I then took a two-year leap forward, at which time Wigan wanted to sign me as a young player. I was 17 and wanted to play for my hometown team, but my dad is also there, so you can imagine the tension in the room when I arrived with him for the signing! But Maurice had a charm that could deflect any drama, get out of an awkward situation, and generally leave you smiling.

The decision to invite Australian champions Manly to play Wigan in the UK in 1987, in what was the first official World Club Challenge match, was another of his bold moves and the biggest sign to date that there was a showman there who wanted to take rugby league to a higher level and to a wider audience.

Brian Carney says Maurice Lindsay was a visionary for the game as he pays tribute to the former Wigan Warriors chairman and RFL chief executive who died aged 81.

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Brian Carney says Maurice Lindsay was a visionary for the game as he pays tribute to the former Wigan Warriors chairman and RFL chief executive who died aged 81.

Brian Carney says Maurice Lindsay was a visionary for the game as he pays tribute to the former Wigan Warriors chairman and RFL chief executive who died aged 81.

He was also instrumental in the game Wigan played against Warrington across the Atlantic in Milwaukee in the late 1980s and now had them as the No. 1 team in the country. At one point they had a similar level of awareness and exposure to Manchester United. He had helped to raise the profile of the team to such a level that almost every taxi driver in London had heard of it.

On the pitch, he helped the coach manage a group of players, some with egos bigger than the locker room, to sustained annual success and managed to steer the team to more finals than their fans knew. there were. There is no doubt that Wigan helped to raise the standards and profile of the sport during the 1980s and 1990s, and Maurice was a major player in that.

We often hear coaches raving about one of their players who is so competitive – Paul Wellens said as much about Jack Welsby last week. Well, there was no one more competitive than Maurice in his time at Wigan and I have no doubt he played a major part in why the Cherry and Whites raised so much silverware in that time. .

He was manager of the Great Britain team in 1992 and was a lot of fun, working well with head coach Malcom Reilly to give the team the best chance of winning the Ashes.

I remember one day off from training in Papua New Guinea, we went out to sea on an old boat, and each player had to climb to the top of the mast and jump. It was high, and to add to that someone said there were sea serpents around the boat so there was a bit of fear in the air and even players like Kelvin Skerrett didn’t have don’t look so confident.

After each player anxiously did it, the guys shouted that it was the staff’s turn. Malcolm Reilly was on a shot but one of the assistant coaches collapsed. Then Little Mo started the big climb to the top, closed his eyes and jumped off. I think from there he had the respect of the whole team.

His drive and ambition did not diminish when he left Wigan to become the sport’s boss at the RFL in Leeds. He wasn’t afraid to make a decision and think big. He agreed to book Diana Ross to open the 1995 Rugby World Cup in the first match at Wembley – the year before she had opened the FIFA World Cup in the United States. She was a big name and yet he made it happen.

He networked better than anyone I’ve ever known and lived a life that contained a million great stories. I had the chance a few years ago to share a lunch in London with sky sports his colleague Brian Carney, Maurice and Sir Michael Parkinson, who is a huge rugby league fan and had attended many of the finals at Wembley when Maurice was boss of RFL HQ.

We were sitting in a great restaurant in Mayfair, London when Sir Michael started telling us this lovely story about when he met Nelson Mandela. I sat there thinking ‘I have to try to remember this moment because it’s a great story’. Then when he was done, Maurice started telling us about the time he met Mandela and it was even better!

No doubt many will remember him as a controversial figure, but he clearly had a presence and even in the last years of his life he had the ability to strike fear into men who were doing twice his cut. He had a razor-sharp mind and could control a room with his mind and personality.

He will miss the sport of rugby league, but knowing it like me, he will look down hoping the next generation can show as much drive and enthusiasm as he did for what he believed to be the greatest game of them all. .

Sky Sports

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