SAINTS have been blessed with some super teams over the years – but ask those supporters lucky enough to have watched the men in the red band/red vee for the past seven decades to pick out a favourite team and a good chunk of them will pick out the 1959-61 era.

It was, after all, the team of rugby league immortals – and even after Duggy Greenall and Alan Prescott had hung up their boots there were still legends like Vinty Karalius, Alex Murphy and Tom van Vollenhoven et al in their absolute prime.

Centre Brian McGinn, who signed from Blackbrook shortly after his 16th birthday, earned his spot in that team after learning his craft in the A team for a couple of years under the tutelage of coach Billy Mercer.

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But the 18-year-old McGinn was not overawed when Jim Sullivan called him up for his first team debut at Liverpool City in March 1959, joining an illustrious three-quarter line of Vollenhoven, Frank Carlton and Jan Prinsloo.

In fact, the fast and elusive centre marked the occasion with a try and five goals in the first of what would be 118 appearances spanning five seasons – before he called time on playing at a still youthful 24.

Recalling those early days, Brian said: “I was only a young lad and a few of the players from the 1953 team were still around, Precky (Alan Prescott) was still playing then and when I first broke in Duggy (Greenall) was the other centre.

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“Early on I had Frank Carlton on my wing and then Jan Prinsloo and later on Mick Sullivan.”

Brian had a high regard for Prinsloo, the side’s other flying Springbok, who scored 70 tries in 89 matches in three seasons at Knowsley Road.

“I think Prinsloo was unfairly compared with Vollenhoven, which you can’t do really because there were not many Tommys knocking about, were there?

“Prinsloo was a good player – strong too and very fast,” he said.

In Brian’s first season in the first team Saints were crowned champions after that landmark 1959 Championship Final win over Hunslet.

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Vollenhoven crossed for a hat-trick, including THAT all time special score in front of 50,562 supporters at Odsal, but McGinn’s wingman Prinsloo also crossed for one.

Brian recalls: “Hunslet were a top side in 1959, but what a game that was.

“You knew when Tommy was flying because his head would just flop a little bit to the side and then you knew what was going to happen next. He was brilliant.”

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It was the first of his medals at Saints with two Lancashire Cup Final wins each side of a special win over Wigan at Wembley in 1961.

Brian explained what it was like to play – not just in that backline, but behind a pack led by Vinty Karalius, the iron man that the Australians dubbed the Wild Bull of the Pampas.

He said: “It was great. When Vinty ran on to the field you didn’t have to be feared of anybody.

“But we had so many good players. If you looked at our pack then there were not many who had not toured Australia.

“Duggy was my captain when I first broke in to the team but then Vinty took over and they were very different.

“Vinty was not what you would call a heavy forward – only about 14 stone, but he was very fit and very strong.”

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Karalius led Saints to a 12-6 win over Wigan at Wembley 1961, a game in which McGinn, who had only just turned 21, recalls vividly.

“In 1961 everyone thought Wigan only had to turn up because they had been there that often in the previous years.

“The build-up was wonderful -I come from Bolton Street and you should have seen it round Fingerpost – there were Saints flags everywhere,” he said.

The game featured four of rugby league's all-time great wingmen with Billy Boston and Frank Carlton on the Wigan side, with Vollenhoven and Sullivan in the red V.

But it was Vollenhoven, and his inter-passing with centre Ken Large, that would grab the headlines with a wonder score.

“It was a great try,” Brian said “and as I said, when Voll’s head tilted like that you knew he was motoring.

“It was not all on that side of the field though, Mick Sullivan on my wing also had a big reputation and had been on many Great Britain tours.”

Brian played in two tour games against the Australians at Knowsley Road, winning one, and he also scored a try in the 1961 victory over the touring Kiwis.

Back then the games between Saints and the Kangaroos were the stuff of legend and in the autumn of 1959 a crowd of 29,156 crammed into Knowsley Road Brian recalls: “I marked Reg Gasnier that day. He could run a bit and was King in Australia in those days.”

But at the end of the 1962/63 campaign, despite being aged just 24, Brian took the difficult decision to prematurely hang up his boots.

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Looking at the way he was playing, what he had achieved and the calibre of team he was playing in, it is a decision that needs some explaining, especially as he also had an offer to transfer to Wakefield Trinity.

Brian explained: “It was a few things, I had been made redundant from St Helens Corporation, but had just got married and had just moved into a house.

“So when I got a good job as a cable jointer with the BICC it was good money, but it meant working on weekends.

“It was a really big decision, and for a while I did wonder whether I had made a mistake. But financially the situation I was in meant it was the right call.”

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Nevertheless, Brian – now aged 83 - can still look back at medals he won from playing in one of the greatest Saints teams in the club’s history and has some treasured memories.