TRIBUTES have been paid to popular former Widnes, Cumbria and Great Britain packman Les Gorley who has died, aged 69.

A two-time Wembley winner with the Chemics in the early 80s, 6ft 2 Les was a tough, strong-running second rower who was quick for a big man and became a key component of the rebuilt Widnes pack.

He was not just a big hitter and hard runner, Les was also a wily campaigner adept at slipping a one-handed pass - skills that earned him domestic and representative honours.

Widnes Vikings tweeted: “Awful to hear the news of the passing of former Widnes player, Les Gorley. The thoughts of everyone at Widnes Vikings are with the family and friends of Les at this tough time. Rest In Peace, Les.”

The RFL also sent a message of condolence: “The Rugby Football League are saddened to hear of the passing of former Great Britain international Les Gorley. Gorley won the Challenge Cup in 1981 & 1984 with Widnes and also represented Whitehaven and Workington. Thoughts are with his family & friends at this difficult time.”

Born in Great Broughton in 1950, Les was initially an accomplished schoolboy footballer in Cockermouth before taking up the oval ball at Broughton Red Rose.

He was soon on the radar of the professional talent scouts and at the age of 20 he signed for Workington Town in 1970 – spending eight successful seasons at Derwent Park.

He played alongside his younger brother Peter in that team that won promotion to the First Division.

And he played in three Lancashire Cup Finals, including the famous 16-13 win over Wigan in 1977, the club’s last major piece of silverware.

In 1979 both Gorley brothers left Town and headed south, with Peter joining St Helens and Les plumping for Widnes for a £18,000 transfer fee.

Within weeks of joining Les had his first medal, playing against his former club in the 1979 Lancashire Cup Final.

More success followed, with Big Les crossing the whitewash in the last match of that 79-80 campaign – the 19-5 win over champions Bradford Northern in the Premiership Final – the first of his three medals in that competition.

Widnes went through a rebuilding process after his first season at Naughton Park, with a cluster of players joining the new Fulham side.

But partnering Eric Prescott in the second row, Les was a key component of a Widnes side that came good to time its run to Wembley, beating Warrington in the semi before toppling holders Hull KR 18-9 beneath the Twin Towers.

Les helped give the side a hard, physical edge to enable the gifted footballers in the side to their stuff. Doug Laughton had swiftly built a well-balanced side of experience and youth that was ready to carry on being Cup Kings.

The big Cumbrian was back at Wembley the following year, in the drawn game against Hull FC. And although the Chemics lost the replay. Les would have one more crack at the national stadium.

And he signed off his career in the Black and White with a 19-6 win over Alex Murphy’s Wigan in May 1984.

He headed north to Cumbria, where he was reunited with his brother Peter playing for Whitehaven for a swansong.

Apart from domestic honours, Les earned five great Britain caps, the last one against the 1982 Invincible Kangaroos, and played twice for England.

He was also fiercely proud to represent his county of birth Cumbria 17 times, helping them to win back-to-back County Championships between 1980 and 82, and beating the New Zealand tourists.

In a long career he scored 83 tries in 439 appearances.