WE continue our lookback at Saints players who have made an impression in their time in the red vee....this week it is Roy Mathias.

St Helens Star:

FANS introduced to rugby league in the 70s would have been immediately drawn to the sight of Welsh powerhouse Roy Mathias rampaging down the wing.

Quick for a big man, the dual code Welsh international thundered over for 218 tries from more than 400 appearances in the red vee spanning 11 seasons

That tally puts him in fifth on the club’s all-time try scoring chart – a mark of the massive impact he had between 1972-83.

The Llanelli-born wing made his international debut in April 1970 appearing in Wales’ 11-6 defeat of France at Cardiff Arms Park. That side featured greats such as skipper John Dawes, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, Gareth Edwards and the towering figure of Mervyn Davies at Number 8 – in the golden age of Welsh rugby.

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But like so many of his countrymen, Mathias was enticed north to club that had enjoyed huge success in tapping Welsh talent – and at the time the team were blessed with compatriots Kel Coslett, John Rees, Frank Wilson and John Mantle. A contingent that would be further bolstered in the 70s by Mel James’ arrival and John Warlow’s return.

Slasher, as he was known, was a difficult man to stop when he got into his stride, whether that was fearlessly crashing on to the inside ball or putting his shoulder down and heading for the corner.

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Like Les Jones on the other wing, Mathias was a regular at the top end of the try scoring charts.

A touchdown on debut and then in each of his next three games set the tone for 26-try maiden 1972-3 season, but that was just for starters.

The following year the flame-haired flank-man powered over for a phenomenal 40 tries which included scoring five against Rochdale Hornets.

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Mathias, outside classy England centre John Walsh, topped the try charts again as Saints lifted the 1974/5 League Championship.

More silverware followed the following year – with Wembley being the icing on the cake of a trophy treble.

Mathias helped himself to a brace in the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final win over Dewsbury, but it was not simply his tries that were key to the team’s success – his line breaks and surges were often essential to get the team on the front foot.

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The following year saw Saints lift their last piece of silverware for what would be eight seasons – the 1977 Premiership Final success over Warrington in which the Welsh wing collected Eddie Cunningham’s pass to score.

This would be the last time Mathias – and Messrs Jones, Pimblett, Nicholls and Chisnall for that matter – would collect a winner’s medal with Saints.

After the Wembley defeat of 1978, Saints had a tough time with some greats ageing, retiring or moving on but Mathias still knew where the whitewash was.

That earned him a place on the Great Britain tour to Australia and New Zealand in the summer of 1979, collecting a Lions cap to go with his 20 for Wales.

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And in a tough 1979-80 he still crossed 27 times, including five tries against Workington Town.

He had begun to lose a yard with time, so with the side going through a transformation with an infusion of younger players Mathias switched to the back row or made an impact off the bench.

St Helens Star:

Mathias was such a loyal servant that when he was granted a testimonial he was allowed two matches – and took the Saints down to play a Welsh XIII at his hometown Llanelli in June 1982, with a few thousand turning out at the town's football ground show the player's enduring popularity in his hometown.

His second testimonial game was against Pilkington Recs in a stormy match at Knowsley Road a couple of months later.

Roy Mathias, a great Saint, who certainly made the Popular Side roar as he powered down the touchline and one who remains popular having put down roots in his adopted town.

Pictures courtesy of Curtis Johnstone.