ONE of the advantages of St Helens RFC’s distribution of Heritage Certificates has been the chance to catch up with former players who might have – for one reason or another – ‘gone under the radar’ for several years.

Saints had big hopes for centre Steve Gobey when they signed him from Bradford Northern in the summer of 1973 as part of the exchange deal which saw scrum-half Ken Kelly move in the opposite direction.

He was a schoolboy prodigy, making his debut for Bradford at the age of 16 against the visiting Kiwis. A regular points-scorer in the A team, he was delighted when Saints came in for him.

St Helens Star:

Gobey as a youngster at Bradford Northern

Steve made his debut against Dewsbury on 18th November 1973 at Knowsley Road and scored a try for good measure.

“I was 18 and Saints got me a job at the local glassworks and found me lodgings in a local pub,” he remembers.

“But Saints were a team of stars. I found it difficult to get into the first team.

“Jim Challinor, a former centre, was the coach; a good man and I learned a lot but he was concerned about my fitness.

“He asked me to step up my training but the more I trained the more tired I was getting. Little did I know the mega problem behind it all.

“Anyway, scored some tries kicked some goals and still at a good club even though still in the A team.”

Wakefield Trinity came in for Steve and the club didn’t stand in his way. In a strange twist of fate, it proved to be a lifesaver for him!

After playing four games for Trinity at the end of the 1973-74 campaign, he had to have a finger amputated after a particularly nasty break and it was the start of tough times.

“Lucky is not the word,” he recalls.

“Now we know why I was so tired. On the routine blood count, they discovered lymphoma cancer in my neck.

Within days I was transferred to the main Cookridge hospital where I had a major splenectomy plus intravenous chemotherapy for 9 months – not nice at all!”

A comeback with Trinity was short-lived but after playing some rugby union, Steve turned out for East Leeds ARLFC and coached them for seven seasons too.

“The most rewarding time of my rugby career,” he maintains.

Unfortunately, the lymphoma re-appeared in 2001, leading to a series of fundraising events on his behalf where players from his former clubs, including Saints, supported him.

More recently there have been more health concerns for Steve.

After further problems with lymphoma in 2016, he faced a full cell transplant, but there are side effects.

“Heart problems have occurred as a result,” says Steve.

“I’ve got a pacemaker/icd implanted with an operation planned for 17th December.

“I can’t drive any more but all in all I’m still standing, still enjoying my rugby league both local and on the telly!”

Steve was delighted to receive his Heritage Certificate recently and despite only making two appearances in the Red Vee, has happy memories of his time in St Helens and the friendships he made.

He’s a true fighter and everyone associated with Saints wishes him well for the future.

By Alex Service