Eric Ashton

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Eric Ashton
Personal information
Born (1935-01-24)24 January 1935
St Helens, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 20 March 2008(2008-03-20) (aged 73)
Playing information
Position Centre
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1955–69 Wigan 497 231 448 0 1589
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1955–?? Lancashire 10
1957 Rest of the World 1 1 0 0 3
1957 Great Britain & France 1 5 5 0 25
1957–63 Great Britain 26 14 1 44
1962 England 1 1 0 3
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1963–73 Wigan
1973–74 Leeds
1974–80 St Helens
Total 0 0 0 0
Source: Wigan Warriors

Eric Ashton MBE (24 January 1935[1] – 20 March 2008) was an English professional Rugby League World Cup-winning footballer of the 1950s and '60s and later a coach. He played his whole first grade football career for Wigan along with at times both captaining and coaching them; his position of choice was right centre. Over the span of his career he came to be known as one of the best centres in the modern game and formed a devastating partnership with Billy Boston somewhat because of this combination he went on to represent the Great Britain national side making his debut in 1957. After his retirement from league in 1969, Ashton went on to coach Wigan as well as Leeds, St. Helens and Great Britain; he also had a brief stint as chairman of St Helens in 1996.[2] He was a member of the St Helens board for fifteen years.


Born and brought up in St Helens, Lancashire, Ashton began playing rugby league at an early age and it wasn't long before his talent became noticeable; he was signed to the St. Helens schoolboys side before joining the army not long after.

Playing career[edit]


In 1954, Ashton was spotted playing rugby league during his national service in the Army and was subsequently invited for a trial with rival club Wigan. He attended the trial and was seen by the directors of the club as being a player with exceptional talent, after Wigan offered him a spot in their top level side he offered his home town club St Helens the chance to sign him but they passed and he then signed for Wigan in 1955 for £150. He made his first representative later that year, appearing for Lancashire against New Zealand.[3] He represented Rest of the World in the 11–20 defeat to Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground on 29 June 1957, and represented Great Britain & France in the 37–31 victory over New Zealand at Carlaw Park, Auckland on 3 July 1957. After signing for Wigan he quickly linked up with Welsh right winger Billy Boston and formed one of the most devastating right-wing-threequarter partnerships of modern times. Ashston played Centre, i.e. number 3, in the 8–13 defeat by Oldham in the 1957 Lancashire Cup final during the 1957–58 season at Station Road, Swinton on Saturday 19 October 1957. He played Centre, i.e. number 3 in the 9–13 victory over Workington Town in the 1958 Challenge Cup final during the 1957–58 season at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 10 May 1958,[4] Such was the impact of both Ashton and Boston it led to Ashton being promoted as captain of the Wigan side after just two years at the club at the age of 22. It was a position he would go onto hold for the next twelve years. He made his international début at the age of 22 for the Great Britain side against France in 1957. He would go on to collect a total of 26 caps for the Great Britain side with his first Southern Hemisphere tour coming in 1957 as the British side competed in the World Cup. He was a true professional in every sense, being sent off just twice in his whole career and due to his professionalism, talent and intelligence he would go on to achieve a long and distinguished footballing career. Ashton's honours and achievements are nothing short of impressive, with 3 victorious Wembley Challenge Cup finals (out of a possible six), a Championship in 1960, a Lancashire Challenge Cup and two Lancashire League Championships as well as a BBC Floodlit trophy. He played in Wigan's 30–13 victory over Hull in the 1959 Challenge Cup final during the 1958–59 season at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 9 May 1959,[5]


Ashton would become somewhat immortalised as one of the players involved in the all-conquering British side of 1960, captaining Great Britain to victory over the Australians on several occasions. It's usually said that Ashton's greatest moment could have come in the 1962 tour to Australasia when while captaining Great Britain to an almost complete whitewash over the Australians, a last minute refereeing decision ruined the chance of this occurring. In total Ashton captained the British side 15 times. He scored a conversion the 20–16 victory over Hunslet in the 1964–65 Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8 May 1965.[6] Due to his heroics in the Southern Hemisphere, Eric Ashton was the first rugby league player to be honoured by the Queen. He was awarded the MBE in June 1966. Eric Ashton played Centre, i.e. number 3 and scored a try in Wigan's 16–13 victory over Oldham in the 1966 Lancashire Cup final during the 1966–67 season at Station Road, Swinton, on Saturday 29 October 1966.[7] Eric Ashton played Centre, i.e. number 3 in Wigan's 7–4 victory over St. Helens in the 1968–69 BBC2 Floodlit Trophy final at Central Park, Wigan on Tuesday 16 December 1968.[8] Eric Ashton's Testimonial match was a St. Helens born XIII against a Wigan born XIII (but including the Tiger Bay, Cardiff born Billy Boston) at Central Park, Wigan on Whitsun Monday 26 May 1969.

Coaching career[edit]

In 1963 he was appointed player-coach of the Wigan club, a position that he held for a further six years before hanging up his boots as a player in 1969. He would continue on his managerial role at the club for another four years.

Following the 1973 season Ashton resigned his post as Wigan coach and moved to Leeds for a short spell before moving on to coach St Helens from May 1974 to May 1980, including two Challenge Cup finals in 1976 and 1978. In 1996 he was appointed chairman of his old club and was at the helm when they won the double that year.

In 2005 Ashton was also inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame and the British Rugby League Hall of Fame. He is also an inductee of the Wigan Hall of Fame. Prior to his death, Ashton was a director at St. Helens for almost fifteen years.

On 20 March 2008 it was announced that Eric had died at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer.[9][10]


As a player

As a coach


  1. ^ "Birth details at". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  2. ^ (27 February 2004). "Cup heroes: Eric Ashton". BBC Sport (UK: BBC). Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Morris, Graham (2005). Wigan Rugby League Football Club: 100 Greats. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0-7524-3470-4. 
  4. ^ "1957–1958 Challenge Cup Final". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "1958–1959 Challenge Cup Final". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "1964–1965 Challenge Cup Final". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "1966–1967 Lancashire Cup Final". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "1968-1968 BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  9. ^ "Club Mourn The Loss of a Great". Wigan Warriors Official Website. 20 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Rugby League legend Ashton dies". BBC Sport. 20 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 

External links[edit]