Wigan Warriors are greatly saddened to learn of the passing of former player Jackie Melling at the age of 77.
The following has been written by Club Historian, Keith Sutch:
Jackie was born in Wigan on 19th September 1944, and attended Highfield School, representing the Wigan Schoolboys RL and football teams, as well as the Lancashire Schoolboys RL side.
Jack was a talented footballer and was on schoolboy forms with Bolton Wanderers but turned his attention to Rugby League due to the complexities of travelling to Bolton from Wigan.
It was another local Wigan lad, Parry Gordon, that persuaded Jackie to try his hand at Rugby League and after training with Warrington he was offered terms to play alongside Gordon in the colts team.
Melling played either stand off or centre, establishing a regular first team spot with Warrington, where he made a total of 173 appearances, scoring 65 tries, one goal and five drop goals for a total points score of 207 between 1963 and 1971.
After finishing at Warrington in 1971 Jackie concentrated on his day job as an Electrician until 1972 when he was approached by Wigan to help them out in what was proving to be a difficult start to the season, having lost three of their six opening league games.
Although Melling had been out of the game for some 12 months, he agreed to sign for Wigan without a signing on fee and consequently played six matches under Coach Eric Ashton.
He made his debut for Wigan on 29th September 1972 v Oldham at Central Park.
Jackie was a tough, no-nonsense talented centre and found himself being sent off in his third game v Featherstone. His misdemeanour led to a fine of £2 which he duly paid himself.
After the six games, Melling explained to the Wigan board that he was finding the pace of the game too much, that his timing was wrong, his reading of the game had deteriorated which in turn affected his positional play and ultimately his contribution to the team, and although the Wigan Directors tried to convince Jackie to stay he walked away from the professional game.
Jackie played his last game for Wigan on 24th October 1972 v Halifax in a Floodlit Trophy game at Central Park.
It is interesting to note that for whatever reason those six matches Jackie played were never recorded in the history books of Wigan Rugby League and it is thanks to several dedicated supporters that this was eventually rectified and Jackie was awarded his Heritage Number (689A) and shirt last November.
Not long after leaving Wigan, Jackie became involved with Wigan St Patricks ARLFC but after having his jaw broken he finished playing altogether and concentrated on coaching at Under-17s and later at Under-19s level. He was involved Wigan St Pats for approximately 12 years and went on to coach Mike Gregory.
In a career change, Jackie worked as a Local Government Officer – working with young offenders in Sefton.
As a Club, Wigan Warriors would like to offer their sincere condolences to Susan, Jackie’s wife, along with his family and friends. Rest in peace.
Wigan Warriors Club Historian