Widnes RLFC

Tommy McCueTommy McCue

Many years on from his retirement, debate still rages as to just how good a player Tommy McCue really was. Everybody, it seems, recognises him as the greatest of all Widnes scrum-halves. Most people consider him to be the best ever to wear the black and white in any position. But some of those who were privileged to see his career in its entirety will go beyond that and argue that there has never been a better player anywhere in Rugby League living memory.

Tommy McCue was the product of that famous 'rugby academy', St. Bedes School. even as a schoolboy he had a reputation of being rather special and so it was no surprise when he signed for Widnes in 1930 from the outstanding junior side of the day, Manchester Ship Canal. Along with Tommy Shannon he was to become part of the most famous half-back pairing in the history of Widnes Rugby League Club.

McCue was blessed with all the skills which a master scrum half should possess together with phenomenal pace to take him through the tightest of defences and that most precious of gifts, genius. His tactical brain working in harmony with Shannon and loose forward Harry Millington often resulted in a try for one or other of that celebrated triumvirate. Tommy's kicking game was one of vision and shrewdness and he had the uncanny ability to come from the base of the scrum and kick it downfield in the same movement. His defensive capacity was the equal of his attacking prowess, there was not a noticeable flaw to be found in his game.

Tommy played in two Wembley finals for Widnes. His first in 1934 ended in defeat at the hands of Hunslet, but in 1937 Widnes were victorious against Keighley when he scored one try himself and created others for Tommy Shannon and skipper Nat Silcock. His performance would have undoubtedly have taken the Man-of-the-Match award if there had been one in that era.

By this time Tommy had had the distinction of representing Great Britain in Test matches at home and as a 1936 tourist Down Under. The outbreak of World War 2 in 1939 saw the suspension of competitive Rugby League for the duration, although some games were played. Emergency Leagues were formed, with the system of guest players introduced. Tommy McCue guested at Halifax in those lost years for the sport.

In the first post-War Lancashire Cup competition Widnes progressed to the final to face mighty Wigan at Wilderspool Stadium, Warrington, in front of a near 30,000 crowd. Wigan started the match as clear favourites but Widnes, skippered by McCue, had other ideas. In a thrilling game the Chemics were trailing until a piece of McCue magic transformed the game, resulting in the club's first ever County Cup success. At the end of that season Tommy became a tourist for the second time, this time as vice captain and played in all three Test matches against Australia, with Britain winning two and drawing the other. His half back partner for those encounters was Barrow's Willie Horne and together they made a formidable pairing. Tommy's experience was a telling factor throughout the series.

There are many great moments that spectators can recall of Tommy McCue. Frank Tobin Snr. recalls: "McCue would have made a good chess player; he was at least two moves in front of everybody else. He was a genius." perhaps the surest evidence of his greatness came back in 1934 after a first round Cup victory over Leeds at Naughton Park. The Chairman of Leeds put a cheque down on the table and asked his Widnes counterpart to fill it in for McCue's transfer to the Yorkshire club. Politely it was given back the way it came......blank.

Tribute indeed to one of Rugby League's finest players.

© This text has been taken from the Widnes R.L.F.C Hall of Fame Brochure which was written by Sam Patmore, Ron Girvin, Stephen Fox, John Potter & Chris Moore.