TIM Pickup was a case of what might have been for Saints, writes Alex Service.

In the late 1960s the board of directors made continuous strides to keep the club challenging for major honours.

Scrum-half and captain Tommy Bishop’s departure to the Cronulla club in Sydney was a major blow.

Feelers were put out to try and secure Welsh rugby union star Gareth Edwards on a professional contract but as a result of his employment prospects with the Portland Cement Company he declined.

Saints paid Huyton £750 for Jeff Heaton, who had formerly been at Knowsley Road and pulled off one of the greatest value for money signings in the club’s history!

In May 1969, the club had been alerted about a young Australian stand-off, who was playing rugby union in Hackney, London, and it was Tim Pickup, who was invited to trials. If successful, there would be appropriate accommodation and employment thrown in.

Born in the Western Suburbs of Sydney on October 6, 1948, Timothy Alexander Pickup started out in junior rugby league before becoming a fly-half at Manly RUFC.

A keen surfer, he then decided to travel extensively, including taking up a spell of busking at the famous Greenwich Village in New York. Tim also attended the legendary Woodstock festival before coming to London.

He arrived in St Helens in early September 1969 and stated his intention to stay until the end of the season.

There was, however, the problem of clearance from both the Australian Board of Control and the Rugby Football League.

By the end of the month, Pickup had received clearance to play as an amateur, although a further application for ‘unconditional clearance’ was put in. He also started a job at Pilkingtons.

Tim made his debut in the A team at Knowsley Road in a Lancashire Shield fixture against Workington Town. Although Saints won 33-5 there was a meagre attendance. The corresponding first team fixture at Derwent Park was televised, reducing the crowd to less than 100.

As for Tim, he impressed at stand-off but was not given a contract by Saints and never made a first-team appearance. He played in a few matches for Pilks Recs as an amateur.

“He played in the Ken Gee Cup for us,” recalls (Big E) Eric Frodsham.

“He was a full-back for Pilks and I remember one game against Leigh Miners where he did a brilliant tackle on Westhead, one of their flyers. Tim was a good lad and enjoyed his Sunday nights out with us at Moss Bank Labour Club.”

According to Bill Sheffield, his teammate at Saints, Tim’s spirit of adventure returned.

“He was a real happy-go-lucky character, you could say,” said Bill.

“He flew to Prestwick and travelled in Canada and the USA before watching the football World Cup in Mexico.”

The next stop was a spell at Blackpool Borough, where he was able to play senior rugby.

Front-rower Terry Loughlin, who had been at Saints with him and recommended him to the Fylde Coast club, said: “He was a good asset and first of all he lived in Blackpool before moving back to St Helens.

“He actually got married in St Helens, to his Australian girlfriend and we went on his stag night in Southport.

“He lived in a flat near to the old Cowley Girls’ School and when he eventually left, I ended up having to pay his milk bill!

“I really got to know him when we both played for Blackpool Borough. He was a quiet lad, on the whole. The St Helens-based lads would travel together in Allan Bishop’s van for training and matches – me, Bish, Tim, Alan Knowles, Ged Marsh and we didn’t have a bad team when you think about it!”

Tim impressed in many matches for Blackpool at full-back and before he decided to return Down Under, it was rumoured that Wigan were showing an interest, but it never transpired. He returned to Australia and signed for North Sydney Bears where he began a remarkably rapid rise to fame in a tough competition. He went on to play 52 matches from 1972 to 1974 and proved to be brilliant at stand-off, winning their own Player of the Year accolade on two occasions.

In 1975 his career continued on an upward curve when he accepted a huge offer from Canterbury Bankstown and went on to play 47 first grade games until his retirement in 1979, as a result of persistent knee trouble.

He was not just a success at club level, but also on the representative scene.

Tim played six games for New South Wales in those pre-Origin days and three for City New South Wales.

He made his Australian Test match debut at stand -off on July 8, 1972, against New Zealand in the first Test in Sydney and was a 1973 Kangaroo during their successful tour of Britain and France, playing in the first Test at Wembley and on the infamous frozen pitch at Warrington in the third.

His scrum-half partner was the legendary Tommy Raudonikis. Tim played in the vital third test match of the 1974 series against the visiting Lions, when Australia clinched the rubber with a 22-18 victory.

Pickup played in all Australia’s ‘home’ matches during the 1975 World Championships, including a 30-13 success against a Welsh side at the Sydney Cricket Ground on June 14 that included Saints’ players Roy Mathias, John Mantle, Eddie Cunningham, Frank Wilson and Kel Coslett.

He played his last international in a 10-10 draw against England at the same venue, who included Eric Chisnall and John Walsh in their ranks.

A Life Member of Canterbury Bankstown, he linked up with champion boxing trainer Johnny Lewis at the Newtown PCYC and was manager of Jeff Harding when he won the WBC World Light-Heavyweight title against all odds in 1989.

Tim was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his outstanding services to Australian Sport in 2000 and two years later was appointed to the board of the Canterbury Bankstown club to rectify matters after their salary cap scandal.

In 2006 he was also named in the North Sydney Bears Team of the Century but these days he is sadly battling dementia issues.

It had only been a few years from the A team at Knowsley Road to becoming a fully-fledged Kangaroo tourist. One that got away? Maybe. Had Tim’s wonderlust returned? It is believed that he had planned to return Down Under with his wife Jan sooner rather than later anyhow, but he still kept in touch with the friends he made.

He kept in touch with the friends he made.

Terry Loughlin concluded: “In 1992 when we were over watching our Paul on the Great Britain tour, Tim met us and showed us round the Canterbury Bankstown club. It was brilliant.

“He gave our Michael a jersey and he made it a real day to remember for us. Almost made me forget about that milk bill too!”