26 OCTOBER 1957 – TOM VAN VOLLENHOVEN
On this Day, 63 years ago, in front of 23,000 fans, Tom van Vollenhoven, made his debut for St. Helens against Leeds at Knowsley Road. Recruited for the Saints from Rhodesian rugby after strong financial competition from other league clubs, Springbok Number 314 after concluding a record deal and signing-on fee of £7 230, then went on to make a further 408 appearances for the club, scoring 392 tries along the way. On two occasions he scored six tries in a club match.
His October-debut, however, proved to be a cracker. Playing with the likes of Duggie Greenall, Vince Karalius and Alex Murphy, on the day, the ‘Vol’ as he came to be known, scored his first first-class try and helping his side to a 36-7 victory. From this point onwards, there was no looking back.
In 2000 ahead of the World Cup, Tom van Vollenhoven was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame and remains the only South African representative thus far to be honoured in this way.
On his passing in 2017, St Helens Chairman Eamonn McManus in an interview with Sky Sport noted:
"Tom was one of St Helens' and rugby league's greatest ever players: a true great amongst greats. He lit up the game during its great era in the 1950s and 60s. There may be possible debate over who was St Helens' best ever player but there is no doubt over who is our most loved and revered player: it is Tom van Vollenhoven."
Dave Dooley of the Saints Heritage Society in turn wrote of Heritage Player Number 747:
“Tommy Vol was truly a phenomenon, with 392 tries in 408 appearances - says it all, doesn`t it! A blond, crew-cutted figure, who possessed terrific pace and athletic ability, he was also extremely strong for his size. Apart from finishing with aplomb if given even minimal space down the touchline, there was no contest - three points every time! He could conjure up tries from the most unlikely scenarios, regardless of the craft and skill of his centres.”