AUSTIN Rhodes – a Great Britain World Cup winner and a member of the first Saints team to win at Wembley – has passed away aged 81.

Another of Thatto Heath’s famous sporting sons, the former St Austin’s pupil joined Saints aged 15, signing professional forms at 16.

He made his debut against Liverpool City in March 1955 and initially established himself at scrum half.

It was a tumultuous first season in the red band for the Donkey Commoner, culminating in Saints’ first ever Challenge Cup Final win at Wembley.

The 19-year-old Rhodes, playing scrum half, kicked two goals as Alan Prescott led Saints to a famous 13-2 win against Halifax beneath the Twin Towers.

Later that year he scored a try and kicked seven goals as Saints walloped the touring Australians 44-2 at Knowsley Road in 1956.

St Helens Star:

His form was good, and the following season he won the first of four Great Britain caps and was picked for 1957 World Cup duty in Australia.

Alex Murphy’s arrival meant Rhodes moved over to the stand-off berth with Saints operating with an all-St Austin’s half back pairing.

Rhodes’ next landmark game was the classic 1959 Championship Final – of Tom van Vollenhoven try fame – in which he kicked 10 goals in the 44-22 win over Hunslet at a packed Odsal.

International glory followed the year after when he kicked two goals in Great Britain’s 10-3 win over Australia, with the Lions taking the World Cup after finishing top of the table.

A second Wembley triumph followed in 1961, with Rhodes now operating at full back. He crucially kicked three goals, including one from the half way line, as Saints edged out Wigan 12-6 to lift the cup for the second time.

In that game his defensive qualities were called upon to nail a strong-running try machine Billy Boston with a cover tackle.

St Helens Star:

He departed for Leigh at the end of the 1961-2 season, in which they won the Lancashire Cup, but would return in 1968 collecting another county trophy to add to the ones won in his first stint.

In between he had three years at Hilton Park before joining Swinton before heading back to St Helens.

He had to retire at the end of the 1969 campaign due to a hip injury, but stayed involved with the game coaching Swinton and Pilkington Recs.

Our condolences are with his wife Marlene, son Martyn and daughter Karen.