HUNDREDS of mourners ensured a fitting send-off for Leigh rugby legend Robert Dowling.
The 71-year-old’s funeral at Leigh St Joseph’s Church attracted many friends and former foes of the front row forward, whose connection with Leigh Miners spanned almost 50 years.
The Plank Lane resident was the grandson of William “Nucky” Wilcock who played for Wigan and St Helens.
After playing schoolboy rugby Robert and twin brother Paul joined Leigh St Mary’s, then Higher Folds then the Miners and were part of the sides that won the North West Counties title 13 times on the trot.
He also served as Miners’ secretary, kit washer and helped Paul, a former Miners and Great Britain captain, as groundsman.
He was a member of the club’s committee at the time of his death.
His brother said: “Robert was a good, honest hard player who you could rely on, but one season I didn’t play him for 10 weeks.
“He got sent off a few times and I wanted to be sure we didn’t end up with 12 men.
“As twins there was often a case of mistaken identity and if we pleaded innocence the referee would say ‘well one of you can get off!’.
“Robert’s proudest moment was being picked for Great Britain at the age of 34.
“He would have been made up to see so many players from teams in St Helens, Warrington, Wigan and Widnes paying their respects.”
Miners and ex-Leigh player Winston Sarsfield read a fitting eulogy applauded by mourners including Miners’ founder, coach and first president Rod Raines and the rugby league international trio of Martyns — Mick, Tommy and Tommy junior.
Robert, who was a mill overlooker and later a machine driver at Plank Lane pit, was diagnosed with cancer in 1988 but bravely battled through it.
He died on April 11 from heart and kidney failure, the day after being admitted to in Wigan Infirmary.
Robert leaves a wife of almost 50 years Valerie, and elder son Anthony.
The couple’s younger son David died two years ago.
Following the St Joseph’s service last Friday, interment took place at Leigh Cemetery.