Past players say their fond farewells


by Gary Skentelbery


A host of former Warrington legends paid their last respects to Derek “Nobby” Clarke – the former Warrington player who went on to become the club’s trainer and was chairman of the Past Players Association.
Stars from the club's glittering past including Alex Murphy, Kevin Ashcroft, Mike Nicholas and Parry Gordon attended Nobby's funeral following his death in hospital after suffering a stroke.
There was standing room only at Walton Lea Crematorium with an estimated 200 mourners attending the funeral with the club represented by Chairman Lord Hoyle, Chief Executive Andy Gatcliffe and other members of staff.
Affectionately known as “Nobby”, Derek, aged 70, had played an active role at Warrington RL Club for more than 40 years.
He played four games at scrum-half in 1957-58 and was reserve to Gerry Helme.
After his playing career he became the club’s trainer during the 60s and 70s and was part of the all conquering 70s set-up under Alex Murphy.
But in recent years, he has been best known for his leadership of the Past Players Association, which he was instrumental in founding and which he ran almost single-handedly.
Although seriously ill with a tumour on his lung, he organised the last annual Past Players Sportsman’s Dinner at the Tetley Walker Club in Warrington in February this year and took his usual place on the top table.
A spokesperson for Warrington Wolves said: “.All at Warrington RLFC send their deepest condolences to Mr Clarke's family and friends. He will be greatly missed by the club and the game.”
Tributes to “Nobby” are pouring in from friends and colleagues – including some of Rugby League’s legendary figures from Warrington and further afield.
Although Rugby League was his first love, Derek was an all-round sportsman and in his younger days had played numerous sports at a high standard, including cricket, having at one time been on Lancashire's books.
A friend of many years said: "It is often said that two men were behind Warrington's glory years in the 70s - Sir Oswald Davies, who provided the money and Alex Murphy who was the coach who inspired success on the field.
"But there was a third man who never got much credit - Nobby Clarke who, as trainer, did so much as a steadying influence."
One little known story of Nobby Clarke is that after he finished training at Warrington he went to Lymm Rugby Union Club to train there - helping them to reach the final of the Cheshire Cup.
It is said that at the final he had to speak to the players through the changing room window because, in those days, there was still such animosity between the two rugby codes.