THERE has been an understandable out-pouring of genuine sorrow over the untimely passing of former Saints legend Roy Haggerty at the age of 58.

Although Haggerty scored 115 tries, kicked 20 drop goals in 363 appearances in the red vee between 1978-1991 – statistics alone do not tell why the strong-running son of Thatto Heath became such a cult hero on the terraces in 12 seasons.

The late 70s and early 80s, when Haggerty broke into and established himself in the team, was not an easy time at Saints – and after decades of success, a succession of senior players had retired and were not replaced with expensive recruits.

Instead the club were forced to rely on local products with Haggerty – along with Neil Holding, Chris Arkwright, Steve Peters and Barrie Ledger – being the brightest of starlets.

Haggerty was a one off. An unorthodox player who broke the mould, underlining that you did not have to be huge to make a physical impact.

Signed up from the Saints Colts in October 1978, Haggerty forced his way into the first team the following year – making his debut as a 19-year-old in the John Player Trophy defeat at Widnes.

He featured regularly in that 1979-80 season, with strong weekly performances in the A team securing him a place on the bench in Eric Ashton’s side.

More regular starts in the centre came the following year, and Haggerty produced some eye-catching displays towards the end of the year and made the spot his own for the next two campaigns.

Although never the biggest of players, Haggerty ran well above his weight, with his trademark being his tackle-busting scything runs, in which he used a side-step off both feet, shuffle and the most unorthodox of fends using whatever bony part he could.

That brought the tries – but even then there were signs that Haggerty’s strengths could be used more effectively in the pack with a man of the match display from the back row in 1982’s 14-13 home defeat by champions elect Hull FC catching the eye.

That move to the pack would became permanent when Saints brought over Australian test centre Mal Meninga in 1984 to take his spot.

Haggerty soon forced coach’s Billy Benyon’s hand – and it was a move productive for both parties.

He came off the bench to score a trademark try in Saints’ 1984 Lancashire Cup Final triumph over Wigan at a packed Central Park.

It was his first senior winners medal – and Saints’ first trophy since 1977 and Haggerty had found his niche.

Saints, with Haggerty partnering Andy Platt in the second row, added the Premiership Trophy to the sideboard that year in a year in which the homegrown players knitted with Meninga.

The following season, post Meninga, was tough at times – but Haggerty’s 21 tries helped fire a late recovery under Alex Murphy which saw the club come within a whisker of the League Championship.

There were disappointments on the way– two Wembley defeats, against Halifax in 1987 and Wigan in 1989 – meant the most sought after medal eluded him.

But his pugnacious and energetic displays had begun to get a wider recognition with a call-up to the Great Britain squad in 1987, followed by selection for the 1988 tour to Australia and New Zealand.

Now a senior part of the pack, Haggerty did a massive job in the John Player Trophy run which culminated in Saints winning that competition for the first and only time with the 1988 15-14 victory over Leeds at Central Park.

Apart from his trademark tackle-busts, his unorthodox spin and offload, Haggerty had developed another party piece which was treated with surprise and even laughter at first – the drop goal.

But he popped over 20 and proved a fine practitioner of the art, post Harry Pinner.

And for good measure he signed off his last game with a one-pointer in the April 1991 win over Wakefield before joining Barrow.

Haggerty left behind plenty of memories with his name etched into folklore.

That era may have been rocky at times, and the latter part was in Wigan's shadow, but Haggerty embodied a fighting spirit and resilience that helped get Saints through one of its toughest periods, often brightening up what would have potentially been another dull, damp Sunday afternoon in St Helens.