Trevor Lake was born in Umtali in Rhodesia and played rugby union as a flank forward at school. However, more success came when he switched to the wing. He played for Old Miltonians, the Matabeleland province side, Rhodesia and the Quagga team – a South African select team, similar to the Barbarians. He also had three trials for the Springboks before being approached to join Wigan. Someone from Wigan who worked for the Rhodesia Iron and Steel Corporation approached him on behalf of the club and he signed a four-year contract with a £5,000 signing on fee.
He made his debut at Central Park on 3 November 1962 and scored two tries against Oldham in a 14-14 draw. Wigan skipper Eric Ashton recognised his talent: “He was a good finisher. You never had to look for him. If you broke, he’d be with you. He was a great talent.” Lake had refused to play a trial for Wigan, and had made his debut only a few hours after arriving at the club. He played 17 league matches in the weather-disrupted 1962-63 season, scoring 10 more tries to add to the two on his debut.
Wigan finished runners-up in the First Division in 1963-64 but made little impact in the cup competitions. But for Lake, it was a magnificent season, with 43 tries from 40 appearances. In 1964-65 he made up for the disappointment of missing out on the Challenge Cup Final in 1963. He played in every match on the way to Wembley, scored a try in the first round against Barrow and then got two against Swinton in the semi-final. In the final Wigan faced Hunslet, and won 20-16 in one of the greatest finals of all time. Lake scored two of his team’s tries. His first helped consolidate Wigan’s lead in the first half, for his second he was put in by Ray Ashby and “swallow-dived in at the corner for a spectacular try.” He also topped both his club and the national try scorers list with 40 from 34 appearances.
Along with fellow South African, Gert Coetzer, Lake played for a Commonwealth XIII against the New Zealand tourists at the start of the 1965-66 season. Wigan returned to Wembley for the Challenge Cup Final, this time to play local rivals, St Helens. He missed the first-round win over Halifax, but played in every other Challenge Cup match, including a four-try haul against Whitehaven in the second round. But the final was an anti-climax, with Wigan lacking a regular hooker, they were unable to win possession at the scrums and lost 21-2. In the Championship they had finished third in the table and lost in the semi-final to Halifax. Lake scored 32 tries in the season, once again topping the Wigan try scorers list, and finishing joint-top with compatriot Len Killeen in the national list.
Wigan had last won the Lancashire Cup in the 1951-52 season. With only a few weeks left on his contract, and the club refusing to pay the £3,000 Lake wanted to extend it, his last act for Wigan was to help them win the long-elusive Lancashire Cup. He scored in the first round win at Leigh, missed the narrow win over St Helens in the second round, but then returned for the semi-final and final. His last match was the final, a 16-13 win over Oldham at Swinton. In four years at Central Park, he scored 132 tries in 140 appearances and was the top try scorer for the club in the three full seasons he played.
He then signed for St George in Australia, following Fred Griffiths, Colin Greenwood and others to the ARL. He received a reputed £12,000 signing on fee, but the move was not a success. He only played eight matches in two years, scoring four tries. A knee injury in 1968 finished his career in Australia, and he returned to South Africa in 1969. He went on to develop a successful business career.
By Hendrik Snyders