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Wigan's Top 10 Most Lethal Try Scorers: No 8 - Gordon Ratcliffe
Posted by Bilko on December 16 2008 - 21:51
Number 8: Gordon Ratcliffe - 185 tries in 212 Appearances - Strike Rate 87.2%
Position: Winger
Wigan Playing Career:
Wigan Debut: 21st April 1945 v Dewsbury (A) - Lost 6-11 (Crown Flatt)
Last Wigan Match: 21st November 1953 v Barrow (H) - Won 27-15 (Central Park)

Number 8 on our list of lethal try scorers is Gordon Ratcliffe, another member of Wigan's formidable post war side.

Gordon began playing Rugby Union during the war for Wigan Old Boys RUFC but was signed up by Wigan just as the war was coming to an end. He made his debut in the final match of the 1944-45 War Emergency Season in a 11-6 loss against Dewsbury at the Crown Flatt ground.

The following season he became an instant first team regular - probably because of an amazing home debut in which he scored 4 tries in a 36-5 victory against Leeds. He was soon to play in his first Cup Final as Wigan beat Oldham, Swinton and St Helens on the road to a Lancashire Cup Final clash with Widnes. Sadly Wigan lost 7-3 against the Chemics at Wilderspool.

In the league though Wigan were flying having lost just two games come Christmas time. Into January and Ratcliffe had another four try haul in a 35-0 home win over Rochdale, whilst in February Wigan began their Challenge Cup campaign. Ratcliffe was a integral part in Wigan's progression in the competition with a total of 5 tries in clashes against Swinton, Keighley and Barrow. He didn't score in the Semi Final against Widnes but Wigan still won 12-5 and so Gordon, less than a year after his debut, was looking forward to a trip to Wembley.

There was no chance to think about that though as before the cup final Wigan had a massive run in to the league season which saw 8 fixtures in 19 days!! That run was not helped by Joe Egan, Ken Gee, Martin Ryan and Ted Ward being absent having been picked for the Great Britain tour to Australia. In those days you didn't travel by plane, it was by boat which took a few weeks so they missed the business end of the season.

Ratcliffe switched to centre in the absence of Ted Ward and with this his try scoring dried up, but Wigan still managed to finish the season strongly and finish top of the table.

So in his debut year, Gordon was now on the verge of a league and cup double. The first hurdle was a trip to Wembley to face Wakefield but Ratcliffe would receive a losing medal after a last minute penalty goal meant a 13-12 defeat. Wigan had actually outscored Wakefield four tries to three but lost because goal kicker Brian Nordgren had missed all seven attempts at goal during the final. May well have been a different story had regular kicker, Ward, not been in Australia with Britain.

The Cup Final was a cruel loss but Ratcliffe and Wigan had to pick themselves up for the Championship Play Offs. They got past Bradford in the Semi Final to set up a final with Huddersfield at Maine Road in Manchester. So Ratcliffe was now in his third final in only his 44th appearance for the club. Having lost the previous two he must have been relieved when Wigan won by 13 points to 4. So a League Championship medal and a Wembley appearance wasn't a bad return for a first full season - 28 tries in 43 matches was a fantastic tally as well.

Into 1946-1947 and after his dry spell playing at Centre, Gordon returned to the wing and his try scoring form came back with it. This was highlighted by his six try haul in a 50-6 win over Hull KR at Central Park. He also scored 4 tries as Wigan progressed to a second consecutive Lancashire Cup Final. Wigan beat Belle Vue 9-3 in the final at Swinton to give Ratcliffe his first Lancashire Cup medal.

But as the season wore on, Gordon faced a battle for a regular team place. He had to battle for a wing spot with, Johnny Lawrenson (number 9 in our list), who had returned this season from Military duty, and Brian Nordgren (who will appear later in our countdown). There were no substitutes in those days so Ratcliffe was reduced to "A" team rugby and missed out as Wigan won a second consecutive Championship Final. 21 tries in 23 matches was his record during the season.

The 1947-1948 season would see Ratcliffe would come back into the first team. He laid down his marker for a regular spot right away by scoring 7 tries in the opening day home win over Liverpool Stanley. That tally helped set him up for his best ever season, 45 tries in 36 appearances, which saw him pick up a second Lancashire Cup medal and also he made up for his previous Wembley heartache when Wigan beat Bradford 8-3 in the Challenge Cup Final.

Over the next four seasons, Ratcliffe would go on to collect a third and fourth Lancashire Cup winners medal but miss out as Wigan won two more Championship Finals and another Challenge Cup. Despite his exceptional try scoring exploits, he actually wasn't that popular with the supporters and that together with injury problems meant he often found himself out of the team and struggling to get back in with the emergence of players like Nat Silcock and Jack Broome.

Ratcliffe's injury problems eventually got the better of him and he left the club after only three appearances in 1953-54, playing his final game against Barrow. He left the club aged just 28 but his departure came at a time when Wigan's post war dominance of the game was coming to an end. Ratcliffe had played his part in the post war era and finished his career with 2 league winners medals, 1 Challenge Cup and 5 Lancashire Cups. Ok he missed a few finals as well but that's not a bad haul of gold.

Amazing though - 185 tries in 212 games and the Wigan faithful weren't that keen on him. Fickle you made say, but perhaps a sign of what a rich talented bunch of players Wigan had in that era. Most of them local boys as well. If only we could match that today.

Year by Year Record
1944-45 (War) 1 - - - -
1945-1946 43 28 - 84 League (1), Lancashire League (1)
1946-1947 23 21 - 63 League (2), Lancashire Cup (1), Lancashire League (2)
1947-1948 36 45 - 135 Challenge Cup (1), Lancashire Cup (2)
1948-1949 29 34 - 102 Lancashire Cup (3)
1949-1950 18 19 - 57 Lancashire League (3)
1950-1951 20 10 - 30 Lancashire Cup (4)
1951-1952 28 23 - 69 Lancashire Cup (5), Lancashire League (4)
1952-1953 9 4 - 12 -
1953-1954 3 - - - -
Totals 212 185 - 556 -

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