Keith Elwell | 1969/70 - 1985/86 |
Heritage Number: Date of Birth:
13.03.1970 vs. Oldham. Age:
27.04.1986 vs. Warrington. Age:
As durable as he was skilfull - Elwell started as a fullback in the Widnes reserves having failed a trial at Hull KR. He soon converted to hooker and made a record number of appearances for his hometown club including every single final of the Cup Kings era. Also holds the world record for consecutive games played - a total of 239 between 1977-1982
Hall of Fame Inductee
A few minutes into the 1975 Challenge Cup final Widnes' number nine Keith Elwell failed to clear a Warrington grubber kick and Wire winger John Bevan pounced to put his side ahead. As if that were not enough for the young hooker he then endured two high tackles in quick succession from his opposite number Ashcroft which left him concussed for the rest of the game. Yet he stayed on the field and played his part in an historic victory and in doing so showed the quality which marked his sixteen years in the Widnes team - resilience.
At only 5' 7'' Keith was at a disadvantage from the outset. Before signing for Widnes in October 1969 he had played trials with Hull K.R but had been turned down on account of his size. in those days he was a full back but by the time he earned a regular first thirteen place at Naughton Park in the 1972/73 season Elwell had moved up to the front row. Because of his unusual, almost comic, running style he earned the nickname 'the Mole' but no doubt defences facing his lightning breaks from acting half-back found little to smile about. He was also known, of course, to the Widnes fans as 'Chiefy' and to Eddie Waring he was "the Ubiquitous Elwell!" And at times he really did seem to be everywhere, darting, distributing, dropping goals, and tackling like a demon.
In his youth he played first for St. Michael's and then for Fisher-Moore school teams before moving on to Ditton Youth Club U-17's. He gained town team recognition at U-19 level and later played for Widnes 'B'. As a professional he was lucky to arrive on the scene at the same time as a whole host of other local players who rose from the ranks of obscurity to become household names in the Rugby League world. Bowden, Hughes, Adams, George and Elwell were the heart of a Widnes side which took on and defeated all comers. Keith's talents were paraded on a wider stage with his tally of three Great Britain caps, two for England and nine for Lancashire although these were scant reward for his abilities over the years. However, he certainly made his mark in other respects.
Between 1971 and 1984 Keith Elwell earned thirty-two winners or runners-up medals in major competition, more than any other player in Rugby League history. He was the first hooker to drop a goal in a Challenge Cup final in 1976 against St. Helens, one of a record seven appearances at Wembley, a feat he shared with Mick Adams and Eric Hughes. His 588 full appearances for Widnes between 1970 and 1986 are a record for the club. And Keith's 239 consecutive games from May 1977 to September 1982 were a world's best which have earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
In 1985 he suffered a loss of form and was allowed to go to Barrow on loan. Yet it was a mark of the man that, on his return to Widnes, he played out of his skin week after week in the reserves; so much so that his claims for a first team place could not be ignored. Even after all those years, after five hundred-odd games and a sackful of medals, Keith Elwell was still the enthusiast, hungry for more.