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Eddie Myers – Yorkshire’s Rugby Genius

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Edward ‘Eddie’ Myers was the best player Yorkshire produced after the schism of 1895, coincidentally the year of his birth.

Yorkshire Post journalist J.M Kilburn described Myers strengths…

“He was the complete footballer in technique and temperament. Nothing in contemporary football was more piercing than his cut-through and astonishing burst of speed, which he always seemed to find as the waves of defenders were closing overwhelmingly upon him. Nothing was more thrilling than Myers going down the middle, weaving an intricate thread amongst the pattern of his despairing opponents. Even had you hemmed him in and set up a barrier to the line beyond all possibility of breakage you were still unsafe. A yard of space and an instant of time were all he required to drop a goal, as Scotland once learned at Twickenham in the sunshine of a March afternoon.”

The “Myers straight dash” serves now as a standard of comparison and represents the acme of determined attack. He was the most difficult of men to tackle comfortably and effectively; his sturdy build and remarkable turn of speed were in themselves fearsome qualities, but he seemed to have also some peculiar quality in his thighs that thrust aside tentative tacklers in the manner of a snowplough clearing the line. I have seen astonished defenders fall away from Myers as though he were red-hot to the touch. Myers was no less great in defence than in attack, which is an important tribute, for your clever runner is often a sketchy defender, somewhat disinclined to accept the rough with the smooth. No game was too long or too hard for Myers and he was just as likely to bring off one of his electric bursts in the closing minutes as when the match was in its infancy. The tighter the struggle the better he played, and in his ability to rise to the greatest of occasions lay the final proof of his genius.”

England captain Wavell Wakefield in his book ‘Rugger’, wrote, “the great feature of Myer’s game was his grim determination and I know when in a trial match I once tried to tackle him,  I found him one of the hardest men to stop I have ever come up against. On that occasion I only half had him as he fell over the line and scored, and I always think of him with his teeth set, resolved to go through at all costs.  It would be a good thing if more young players modelled themselves on him, for straight running, is not seen as often as it ought to be.  Myers was never half-hearted about anything he did, for apart from that hard thrust down the middle of the field, he always took his passes at full speed and he always put all he knew into the tackle. He never waited for an opponent but went bang at him and he seemed to think and move just a little ahead of other people on the Rugger field, he always caught his man before he could side-step or swerve away.”

Edward Myers was born in New York, where his father George, a cotton merchant/textiles broker was on business. Both George and his mother Annie, nee Fisher was Bradford born and regularly travelled back and forth across the Atlantic.

An only child he was educated as a boarder at Dollar Academy, Scotland, where he earned the nickname of ‘Tyke’, which, as the school magazine noted, “mark[ed] him down as a thoroughly typical product of Yorkshire.”

He excelled at all school sport, first making his mark in the school cricket and rugby teams of the 1911/12 season going “through a valuable apprenticeship in preparation of the following season, which, the Dollar Magazine observed, “may fittingly be named ‘Eddie Myers’ year” In 1912/13 he captained the Rugby, Cricket, Tennis and Golf teams, as well as his schoolhouse; became the first cadet in the Officer Training Corps, won the Gymnastics medal for the second time and the William Wilson Memorial Prize and the Edina Cup for Champion athlete. He also found time to take his Higher Leaving certificate.   The rugby team lost only twice under his leadership but recorded a ‘double’ over the Former Pupils for the first time in the school’s history.

As Kilburn highlighted, “Had Edward Myers not chosen to be one of the greatest Rugby footballers ever to represent Bradford, Yorkshire, and England, he might have well, have achieved high fame in other branches of sport… Such comprehensive brilliance could not, of course, be continued in after school life, and Myers chose Rugby as the medium for his genius, in so doing he wrote his name forever amongst the greats of the game.”

He left the school in 1913 and attended Leeds University undertaking courses relating to Textiles, following into the family trade.  The 1939 ‘census’ described him as ‘Department manager silk cotton manufacturers.’

Whilst at University he joined Headingley RFC and after appearing in the county trials he made his  Yorkshire debut at the age of 18 on the wing against Durham. Following the game, the Yorkshire Post noted, “Myers has the appearance of being the best natural footballer the Yorkshire team have discovered for some years past. He is, however, lost on the wing, and for the next match ought to be played at centre…” The same paper a month later noted he “[w]as a good, natural player, who can be at home in any position and any company.”  His first twelve appearances for England were as a centre, his last six at stand-off.

Myers told the audience at the Baildon RFC annual dinner in March 1928 that, “Players in no circumstances should consider themselves specialists. They might be best in one position and at one kind of game, but they should always try to learn how to play in other positions and at other styles of games if they intend to be really successful. A thorough grounding in the whole of the elementary principles of the game was necessary because circumstances often arose which did not allow a player to play the game which suited him best. “

After appearing in all seven Yorkshire games of the 1913/14 season and for the North in an England trial match, World War One intervened.  As with many other Yorkshire Rugby Union players, he enlisted, joining the 6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, as a second Lieutenant. He served in France, where he was wounded three times and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. He was promoted to Captain before being demobbed in early 1919. One of his injuries happened in December 1915 when he was shot through the fleshy part of each thigh, although the Yorkshire Post later recalled, he is “little worse for the experience; indeed, he played on Saturday like the born Rugby Footballer he is.” Although in 1923 he suffered from groin trouble which may have been connected.

In 1916 Myers, alongside Northern Union stars including Harold Wagstaff played for a North of England Military XV against an ANZACs team. The Leeds Mercury noted, “The success of the back division in the home team was young Lieut. Myers of the Headingley club, whose wound has far from prejudicially affected his football skill. He is a born footballer and soon struck up an effective combination with Wagstaff.”  Both scored tries in the 13-11 win – The Yorkshire Evening Post describing Myers’s effort as “a very fine try.”

After the conclusion of the War, Myers returned to the Yorkshire team, this time as a representative of the Bradford club. His father George, together with other luminaries of the old Victorian-era Bradford club, helped form a new Bradford team and bought the Lidgett Green ground. Myers was later to serve on both the Bradford RFC and Yorkshire committee’s dedicating hundreds of hours to the game.

He made 42 appearances for the county between 1913 and 1925, captaining them in 1921/22 and 1924/25. He played in the 1926 and 1928 County Championship victories. In 1920 he had played in the final against Gloucester which Yorkshire lost.  He also played for Yorkshire against the 1924 All Blacks but missed the England game due to injury.

He made his England debut against Ireland in February 1920. He set up Wavell Wakefield for one of England’s four tries and then scored one of his own.  He was to appear in eighteen of England’s next twenty-three games. He missed the games against Scotland and France in 1921 due to a family bereavement and three games in 1925, including the fixture against New Zealand due to injury.

Wakefield commented on the game against Ireland in 1923, “I shall always remember Eddie Myer’s great cut through, in which he went from forty yards clean out as a whistle through the opposition with that curious leaning run of his, to pass to Lowe, who scored in the corner.”  The following year Wakefield recalled, “Eddie Myers repeated his marvellous cut through of the previous Scotch match at Twickenham, suddenly breaking away from near the halfway line and running absolutely straight to score a brilliant try. He also dropped a perfect goal and had a great deal to do with our victory [against Scotland].”

In the game against Scotland in 1925, Journalist, Mercian wrote,” Myers struck me as playing remarkably well indeed and considering the blow he got early on I believe he was only half-conscious of what was going on for a long time afterwards. He did wonders.”

Myers time with England coincided with a glory period for English rugby, winning three Grand Slams in 1921, 1923 and 1924.

In 1924 he rejected a place in the British (Lions) squad to tour South Africa citing the pressure of business.

He retired from international rugby at the end of the 1924/25 season justifying the decision that he “would rather retire at the top of his form than go on playing when he cannot do full justice to the game or to his powers.” Although the Athletic News at the start of the following season, after a Bradford game, wrote, “Myers Still a Power… Myers wasted none of his energy in aimless running about. All his work was done in the calm, methodical manner of the master hand, always with the object of opening up attacks. Though there is a vast gap between a club game and an international contest, Myers shows no sign of waning powers.”

The Athletic News commented that his “Retirement will be lamented by all.” He stood down from county rugby at the start of the following season but said he would make himself available if Yorkshire urgently needed his services.

January 1926 saw renewed speculation that he would come out of international retirement to help an England side who were on the wane, but it wasn’t to happen. The Athletic News explaining, “Following up on his decision not to take part in international football again, he relaxed his training, with the unexpected result that now finds he is now playing rather better than when he took his training more seriously… that realisation, possibly, will have its effect upon the Yorkshireman’s readiness to abandon his original intention to retire, his aide is desired. As far as age goes…when the need is urgent, ‘too old at thirty does not apply to the game.’”

HJ writing in the Leeds Mercury – “Myers has been a greater player [and] stands as brainiest and most skilled back there has ever been”, whilst the Yorkshire Post pointed out, “players of the Bradfordian’s class do not appear in every decade.”

The Athletic News commented, “The wonderful electrifying, straight-through dash of Eddie Myers will be remembered long after the Yorkshireman has given up the game.”

He died, in Bradford, on 29th March 1956, aged 60. He was predeceased by his wife Constance Flora Mary nee Paton. They were married on 2nd November 1918 at St Peters Church, Bradford and they had a daughter.

 

Richard Lowther