|Full name||Martin Nwokocha Offiah|
29 December 1965 |
Hackney, London, England
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Weight||14 st 5 lb (91 kg)|
|1991||St George Dragons||14||11||0||0||44|
|2000–01||Salford City Reds||45||23||0||2||94|
Martin Nwokocha Offiah MBE (born 29 December 1965) is an English former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. A Great Britain and England national representative winger, due to his running speed he is nicknamed "Chariots" Offiah after the film Chariots of Fire. Offiah played for English clubs Widnes, Wigan, London and Salford, and in Australia for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs and St. George clubs. He scored 501 tries during his rugby league career, making him the third-highest try scorer of all time. Since retiring Offiah has also provided commentary for Sky Sports rugby league coverage and worked as a player agent.
Offiah was born in London to Nigerian parents, and attended Woolverstone Hall School near Ipswich, Suffolk, where he represented the school at fencing and played rugby and cricket. He played cricket for the Essex 2nd XI but soon realised his main talent was for rugby. He first played club-level rugby union for Rosslyn Park and, after starring on the rugby sevens circuit and for the Barbarians, there was talk of an England future.
Professional playing career
Offiah was spotted by Widnes coach Doug Laughton playing in the Middlesex Sevens and was "brought North" to play rugby league for the 1987–88 season. Alex Murphy had been interested in acquiring Offiah from rugby union, but the board of directors at St. Helens infamously referred to Offiah as an "uncoordinated clown" and the interest was not followed up with action. Within months, he became the most talked about winger since Billy Boston for his lightning speed and try scoring, and it was at Widnes where he forged his reputation as a devastating winger, helping the team win both the Championship and Premiership. He ended his début season with 42 tries, making him the league's top try scorer, and also breaking the club record held by Frank Myler for most tries scored in a season. He received the Man of Steel award for his efforts, and was also rewarded with a place in the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour of Australasia, where he played in all three Tests of the Ashes series which was lost to Australia. While on tour with the Lions, Offiah took part in a 100-metre match race at Wentworth Park in Sydney against Australian flyers Dale Shearer and John Ferguson (Ferguson replaced Greg Alexander who was forced to withdraw through injury). Confirming his standing as the fastest player in rugby league, Offiah easily won the race from Shearer and Ferguson.
In the 1988–89 season, Widnes won the Championship and Premiership for the second successive year, and Offiah was once again the league's top try scorer with 58 tries in 41 games. He then spent the summer in Australia playing for Eastern Suburbs. He scored a try on his NSWRL début against Western Suburbs, and went on to score nine tries in 12 games for the club before returning to Widnes a feat only surpassed by Steven Nolan. During the 1989–90 season, Offiah played for defending champions Widnes on the wing in their 1989 World Club Challenge victory against the visiting Canberra Raiders. Offiah played left wing and scored a try in Widnes' 24–18 victory over Salford in the 1990 Lancashire Cup final during the 1990–91 season at Central Park, Wigan on Saturday 29 September 1990. Offiah played left wing in Widnes' 6–12 defeat by Wigan in the 1988–89 John Player Special Trophy final during the 1988–89 season at Burnden Park, Bolton on Saturday 7 January 1989. In 1991, Offiah had a second spell in Australia, this time playing for St George Dragons. He scored 11 tries in 14 games, including a hat trick against his former club, Eastern Suburbs. He could have easily had four tries in the game against Easts but was ruled to have gone into touch for what should have been the opening try of the game. Television replays however told that he had in fact scored the try but with the absence of the video referee in 1991 the touch judges ruling was final.
Over four seasons at Widnes Offiah had scored a total of 181 tries in 145 games.
Offiah joined Wigan in January 1992 for a world record fee of £440,000 (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £900,300 in 2013). This figure remained a record for a total cash transfer until Wigan beat their own record, paying £450,000 for Stuart Fielden from the Bradford Bulls in 2006.
Playing in his regular left wing position, Offiah formed a devastating partnership with Gene Miles in his first season at Wigan scoring 30 tries in just 15 games including setting a new club record of ten in a single match against Leeds in the Premiership semi-final in May.
Offiah played left wing (replaced by Interchange/Substitute Martin Crompton) in Wigan's 5–4 victory over St. Helens in the 1992 Lancashire Cup final during the 1992–93 season at Knowsley Road, St. Helens on Sunday 18 October 1992.
Offiah played left wing (replaced by Interchange/Substitute Joe Lydon on 59-minutes) in a 15–8 victory over Bradford Northern in the 1992–93 Regal Trophy final during the 1992–93 season at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday 23 January 1993, played left wing in the 2–33 defeat by Castleford in the 1993–94 Regal Trophy final during the 1993–94 season at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday 22 January 1994, played left wing and scored a try in the 40–10 victory over Warrington in the 1994–95 Regal Trophy final during the 1994–95 season at Alfred McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield on Saturday 28 January 1995, and played left wing in the 25–16 victory over St. Helens in the 1995–96 Regal Trophy final during the 1994–95 season at Alfred McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield on Saturday 13 January 1996.
He was selected to go on the 1992 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand. Before the match against the Parramatta Eels at Parramatta Stadium, Offiah had a 100-metre match race against Eels winger Lee Oudenryn, a junior soccer product who had switched to league late and had only played five games for the Eels at that time. Offiah appeared to slip slightly at the start and Oudenryn won by half a yard, though rumours quickly spread that he had tanked to allow Lions team mates to collect after they had allegedly backed the bookies' outsider Oudenryn to win.
During the 1992–93 season Offiah played on the wing for defending RFL champions Wigan in the 1992 World Club Challenge against the visiting Brisbane Broncos. A week before the WCC, Offiah had played on the wing for Great Britain in the World Cup Final against Australia at Wembley in front of an international rugby league record crowd of 73,631 fans.
A biography by David Lawrenson entitled Offiah: A Blaze of Glory was published in 1993.
Offiah played in four Challenge Cup wins, five Championship teams, three Regal Trophy wins and one Lancashire Cup victory. He twice won the Lance Todd Trophy at Wembley. His 90-metre solo try in the 1994 Challenge Cup Final win over Leeds is remembered as one of the finest ever seen in a final, but he made a habit of such runs during his career, scoring a similar try just weeks before against Castleford. After the 1993–94 season Offiah travelled with defending champions Wigan to Brisbane, playing on the wing in their 1994 World Club Challenge victory over Australian premiers, the Brisbane Broncos.
In 1995, Martin Offiah's life story, a 30-minute documentary was produced and directed by Pogus Caesar for Carlton TV UK as part of the Respect. Offiah was selected to play for England in the 1995 World Cup final on the wing but Australia won the match and retained the Cup.
Offiah made a total of 158 appearances for Wigan with another single appearance as a substitute. He scored more than a try a game, crossing the line 186 times. He also managed a goal and three drop goals thus scoring a grand total of 749 points for the club. He left the club in 1996 to return to the capital to play for London Broncos, but sent an open letter to the Wigan Observer thanking fans and the club for his time there.
When the game made the switch to summer rugby in 1996, Offiah played in only ten games before moving to the London Broncos. He was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours 1997 and also played for London in their 1999 Challenge Cup final defeat against Leeds. After this he moved to Salford for the 2000 season, staying for two seasons. He finished his career with London Wasps in rugby union.
In 2004 Offiah was one of the celebrities who took part in the first series of the BBC One's successful show Strictly Come Dancing, reaching fourth place with his partner Erin Boag. In 2005 alongside Natasha Kaplinsky, he hosted the one-off special, Strictly African Dancing.
In 2006 he appeared on a Reality TV Special of The Weakest Link, winning £10,050 and splitting the winnings with Danniella Westbrook. Only once in the game did Martin get a single vote, and statistically was the strongest link in round six. Offiah won Celebrity come Dine With Me in 2011 which was a Rugby World Cup special. Offiah beat Victor Ubogo, Kieran Bracken and Gareth Chilcott. He won with a starter of spicy thai prawn coconut soup, a main of Nigerian chicken curry, a family recipe and a desert of a banana mousse with butterscotch. Offiah has also appeared on BBC quiz show Pointless, firstly with Chris Kamara in 2012, where they were eliminated in the first round, the second time in 2013 with cricketer Philip Tufnell where they made it all the way to the final leaving with the cash prize by getting a Pointless answer in the final round. Offiah donated his £1,250 prize to the Joining Jack Charity. In 2014, he was a contestant on Splash! and was the fourth to be eliminated from the competition. In 2015, he appeared with his son Tyler on Big Star's Little Star where they won £11,000 for charity. In 2015, Offiah took part on All Star Mr & Mrs with his partner Virginia.
Offiah worked as a pundit for Sky Sports rugby from 2008 until 2013. He was a regular studio guest during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and presented a weekly Super League round up on Sky Sports News. He was the agent for Warrington Wolves scrum half Richie Myler, and Kyle Eastmond of Bath Rugby.
Offiah has two sons, Tyler and Phoenix with his fiancee, model and photographer Virginia Shaw Offiah and lives in Ealing, West London.
- Ali, Arif (1988). Third World Impact. Hansib Pub. p. 333. ISBN 9781870518048.
- Chowdhury, Saj (2012-10-23). "BBC Sport - Martin Offiah says football could learn from league to stop racism". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- Wilson, Andy (15 September 2001). "Offiah bows out with grace". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- Hadfield, Dave (8 September 2009). "Offiah seals deal for record-breaking teen". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- "Gareth Thomas completes switch from union to Wales rugby league side Crusaders". telegraph.co.uk. London. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- "Overjoyed Offiah drops quit hint". BBC Sport. 1 July 2001. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "Martin Offiah MBE". The Rugby Football League. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "7th January 1989: Wigan 12 Widnes 6 (John Player Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Rowlands, David (23 June 1991). "'Chariots' Offiah Sinks Easts With A Hat-trick". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 45.
- v St George 1991 Offiah hatrick
- "Widnes Player Biog". Rugby.widnes.tv. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- "Measuring Worth – Relative Value of UK Pounds". Measuring Worth. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "RECORDS" at wiganwarriors.com
- "1988–1989 Lancashire Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "23rd January 1993: Bradford 8 Wigan 15 (Regal Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "28th January 1995: Warrington 10 Wigan 40 (Regal Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "13th January 1996: St Helens 16 Wigan 25 (Regal Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- 1992 World Cup Final
- Martin Offiah Wembley 1994
- Lawrenson, David (1993). Offiah : A Blaze of Glory. St Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-2541-3.
- Martin Offiah at the Internet Movie Database
- Martin Offiah Official Website
- Martin Offiah Wigan Career Page on the Wigan RL Fansite.
- England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org
- Martin Offiah – featured on 100 Great Black Britons
- Wasps profile
- Crooks in trouble
- When Britain defeated the Aussies
|Rugby League Transfer Record
Widnes to Wigan