Rugby codes unite in tribute to David Stephenson

The Fylde coast rugby community is in mourning for the Blackpool-born centre or winger David Stephenson, who enjoyed huge success in rugby league after starting his playing career at Fylde RFC.

By Andy Moore
Friday, 18th March 2022, 12:30 pm

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Stephenson will always be remembered as a Wigan RL great, helping the Cherry and Whites to win 12 trophies between 1982 and 1987. He also represented Lancashire and Great Britain.

Son of former Blackpool FC centre-forward Len Stephenson, David represented England Schoolboys at rugby union while a pupil at Arnold School and made his debut for Fylde in 1977.

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David Stephenson back at Wigan RL in 2009 for a Good Friday derby against arch-rivals St Helens

He scored 16 tries in 56 Fylde appearances and soon came to the attention of the professional code, joining Salford in 1979.

David also enjoyed stints with Leigh and Leeds but it was his success with Wigan which earned him a place in 13-a-side folklore.

He starred in one of the sport's legendary matches, Wigan's victory over Australian champions Manly in the World Club Challenge of 1987. Goalkicker Stephenson scored all Wigan's points in an epic, try-less encounter in front of 36,000 at Central Park.

He made over 200 appearances for the club, scoring 71 tries and 845 points. He represented Great Britain 11 times, starting and finishing his international career with Tests against the mighty Australians.

Great Britain head coach Shaun Wane, his former Wigan teammate, said: “His former teammate Shaun Wane said: “This news has made me so sad. Dave Stephenson looked after me as a young kid as I was getting into the first team at Wigan.

“I will never forget the way he treated people no matter who you were, he made everyone feel special. He was a really good bloke.”

David worked in insurance and was married to Debbie for 42 years. They had two children, Mark and Lindsay, and four grandchildren, Millie, Luca, Oscar and Madison.

David's sister Linda told The Gazette: David was well respected, and a loyal and trusted friend to many.”

After his playing days, David coaches at local clubs including Fylde, where his son Mark was also a player.

Now head coach at Blackpool RUFC, Mark told The Gazette: “Dad was my hero and inspiration, and he always will be.

“He influenced many players from being youngsters, such as David Fairbrother and Martin Wallwork, who went on to be key players at Fylde.”

A Fylde RFC statement reads: “Everyone associated with Fylde RFC sends their sincere condolences to David’s widow and family, including former Fylde flanker Mark. His loss is a profound one.”

In the days when relations between the codes were less cordial, Fylde RFC once escorted the RL great Alex Murphy off their premises when he went to watch Stephenson in has capacity as Salford coach.

Rugby league soon got their man, whose contribution to the sport will never be forgotten.