Over the course of October we’ll be celebrating Black History Month, and reflecting on the contributions of various players of colour towards Widnes’ long history at the top table of British and International Rugby League.
Born on the same day as the great Jim Mills (the pair later represented Cardiff RU youth teams together), Dennis joined the Royal Marines upon leaving school. He subsequently played both Rugby Union for the Royal Navy and Rugby League for Widnes – the latter originally under the alias of A. Newman. Dennis scored a hat-trick at Twickenham for the Royal Navy as his team clinched the Services Championship in 1970. He was the Chemics’ first black player, and also the club’s first significant signing from Welsh rugby since Dave Alford back in 1892. Dennis’s father was Nigerian and his mother was from Wales.
Born in Trinidad and raised in Huddersfield, Wilf played basketball to a high level before joining Huddersfield R.L.F.C. in 1981 via Belle Vue amateurs. In 1985 he joined Widnes for an £18,500 fee, after a six-try performance as a trialist for the Chemics in an ‘A’ team game. Six months later, and with the club in financial turmoil, he signed for Halifax for £13,000, helping ’Fax to the league title that season, and scoring a try as they beat St. Helens at Wembley in 1987. A spell at Batley followed, and Wilf subsequently both coached and refereed in amateur Rugby League. He is currently a long-serving member of the RFL disciplinary panel.
A former Essex 2nd XI cricketer, Martin was spotted playing Rugby Union on TV by Doug Laughton, who asked Chemics scout Eddie McDonnell to pose as a rugby journalist in order to obtain his contact details from Rosslyn Park! After four brilliant, record-setting years at Widnes, Offiah was lured to Wigan in 1992 for a world-record £440,000 transfer fee, and further success would follow. Still one of the most high-profile Rugby League players of the modern era, Martin has remained in the public eye after his playing retirement, with appearances on TV and radio, including on Strictly Come Dancing. His parents originated from Nigeria.
The fact that Kebbie could not earn a long-term place in the Widnes side, despite scoring 18 tries (and eight goals) in his 19 career appearances, says a lot about the competition for places in Doug Laughton’s team at the time. Born in London of Sierra Leonean descent, Brimah attended Prior Park College in Bath and North Staffordshire Polytechnic, and was playing Rugby Union for Broughton Park when Laughton signed him. He left the Chemics to join St. Helens for a £45,000 fee and also went on to have successful stints at Bradford and Huddersfield, as well as RU Premiership side Saracens.
‘Faz’ was one of the experienced forwards recruited by Neil Kelly who helped ensure that the Vikings were competitive in the club’s first two Super League seasons back in 2002 and 2003. Anthony had previously played for home-town club Huddersfield as well as Sheffield Eagles and Leeds Rhinos, and had a stint with Halifax after leaving Widnes. He represented both England and Wales at international level (the latter via a grandparent from Cardiff) and he also has Jamaican heritage. Since his playing retirement, Anthony has coached at both amateur and pro level, as well as working in the prison service. His two sons, Izaac and Joel, both play professionally for Sheffield and are full Jamaica internationals. His twin brother, Andrew, was on the coaching staff at Salford but sadly passed away in 2022.
This article was made possible thanks to Widnes board member Rod Steele and club historian Steve Fox.