Beloved Melbourne Cup winner dead at 29

The rugby league world is mourning the loss of Great Britain international Bill Ashurst, who also played for Penrith in the 1970s.

Ashurst joined the Panthers in 1974 from Wigan on what was then a record transfer fee of 15,000 pounds.

A centre and back-rower, he played 46 matches for the Panthers across three seasons, before quitting the club and returning home to England ahead of the 1977 season, where he re-joined Wigan.

A legend for the Warriors, he played a total of 186 matches for the club across two stints. He won the Harry Sunderland Trophy as the player of the match in the English grand final in 1971, a rare instance of a player from the losing side winning the award.

He played three Tests for Great Britain, debuting against Australia in 1971.

He was named in Penrith’s Team of Legends in 2006 to mark the club’s 40th season, alongside names such as Greg Alexander and Brad Fittler.

During a 2017 visit he was given a tour of Penrith Stadium, telling the Western Weekender that the progress since the 1970s was “unbelievable.”

“I remember our old sheds, buying our own boots and making our own way to the ground. Heck, I even smoked when I played, even at half-time!

“To be honest, I wouldn’t like the lifestyle the players have these days – there’s too much pressure and far too many mobile phones.”

Ashurst’s former teammate Peter Rowe was amongst those to pay tribute to the 74-year-old.

“RIP, Bill Ashurst, a huge talented player, a lovely person, it was a privilege to play alongside you, my condolences to his family, and many friends,” Rowe wrote on Twitter.

Ashurst was in Australia in May to participate in Royce Simmons’ charity walk to raise money for dementia.

“Terrible news overnight to hear of the passing of Bill Ashurst,” Tigers great Garry Jack tweeted.

“I was with Bill three weeks ago in Bathurst, Bill was part of the support team for Royce’s 300km walk for dementia.

“Very sad, life is too short! My condolences to his family & daughter Cathy. Rest In Peace Billy.”

Ashurst’s playing career had a memorable postscript at the age of 40, when he came out of retirement due to a player’s strike. Playing for Runcorn Highfield, Ashurst was sent off.

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