Bill Burgess Junior
There is no question that Bill Burgess (Junior) is one of the greatest wingers ever to pull on a Barrow shirt.
Throughout the 1960s, a period when the sport was blessed with many outstanding wingmen nationally, he was unquestionably up there with the best of them.
Raw speed and a devastatingly effective body swerve, coupled with a change of pace when in full flight which left many an opposing player floundering, made him one of the great finishers of his era.
Make no mistake – on his day Bill Burgess was truly world class. He was one of the few players you see in a lifetime who have the ability to make a crowd gasp and rise as one in anticipation of something special about to happen every time he touched the ball.
The son of the great Barrow forward of the same name, he began his rugby career with local Rugby Union side Furness, before joining the Fylde club where he gained his Lancashire County cap at the fifteen-a-side code.
Barrow enticed him to Craven Park to join his home town club in March 1961, investing the then enormous sum of £7,000 in what they knew was a rare talent.
There was no risk in the investment though – he was a unquestionably a “safe bet” from day one.
Bill’s debut for the first-team came at Doncaster in the opening match of the 1961/62 season and he marked the occasion with a hat-trick of tries as his team won 31-7.
Two days later he made his home debut and crossed for two more touchdowns in an 11-5 win over Oldham. That was the start of a great career at Craven Park, and after he had played his last first-team match (December 1968), his statistics read: 222 appearances and a phenomenal 179 tries (only Jimmy Lewthwaite and Frank Castle have scored more, and both their Barrow careers were considerably longer than Bill’s).
Not surprisingly he was a regular choice for representative teams throughout the sixties (indeed he was Barrow’s only Great Britain player in that decade). He played for Lancashire 11 times (scoring 10 tries – including four in one match), England once (1 try) and Great Britain 13 times in full internationals (8 tries). In 1966 he was a member of the Great Britain squad which toured Australia and New Zealand – emulating his father who had made the same trip in both 1924 and 1928. Apart from appearing in all five Test matches on that tour Bill played in 12 minor tour matches (scoring 11 tries).
Bill Burgess was leading try scorer for Barrow in all but one of his nine seasons with the club and appeared for them in the 1967 Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley (when they lost to Featherstone Rovers). He left the club in late 1968 to join Salford where he continued as a top class winger, appearing for the Red Devils at Wembley and gaining further representative honours.