Trailblazer Billy

Wigan legend tells us about his life and times

Last Updated: 06/06/12 7:02pm

With 571 career tries, Billy Boston's try-scoring feat will be hard, if not impossible to beat.

He's second to Brian Bevan in that league, and even today he speaks of his Warrington-wing nemesis in reverential tones. Bevan's 796 haul is indeed awesome, but that shouldn't - and doesn't - in any way diminish the achievements of the Welshman called Billy.

It is not only a pleasure, but also a privilege for Sky Sports to feature Mr Boston MBE on this week's Super League Super Men... not just for his on-field antics, but also for his ground-breaking achievements.

He was the first black player to tour with Great Britain, the first GB player to score four tries in a test against the Kiwis, and the first athlete inducted into the Welsh Hall of Fame... not bad for a man who turned his back on union for a career in league at a time when the 13-a-side code was 'persona-non-grata'.

It's quite humbling to hear Billy talk about his move to Wigan, and his 15-year career there that created a bond with the town that was never severed. He still lives there and talks of his move north as the best thing he ever did.

To mention his name in the presence of a Wiganer is to see their features soften and eyes sparkle... even if they never saw him play. Such is the esteem in which he is held.

His story though, isn't all moonlight and roses. His was a tough upbringing in the Welsh town of Tiger Bay, where money was short and opportunities post-war were not plentiful.

Still, league movers and shakers soon heard of his athletic prowess and came knocking on his parents' door. He told his mum to tell the club reps to go away. 'I'll do that,' she told Billy, then rejected an offer from Wigan by saying they'd need to double it to £3,000.

When they agreed, she told the 19-year-old to sign on the dotted line. And so a league legend was born.

Boston was a trailblazer but he also faced prejudice - not in Wigan where he says he was never abused due to the colour of his skin, but on tour to South Africa at the height of the apartheid regime. Watch the show on Thursday for Billy's poignant recollection of that particular chapter in his life.

Boston is a part of our rugby league heritage, and one we should treasure.