Player’s ‘great pride’ at Honour’

Mike Stephenson.

Mike Stephenson.

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Rugby league legend Mike Stephenson has spoken of his “great pride” after being made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

The 69-year-old from Dewsbury was awarded for services to the sport after a glittering playing and punditry career.

Sky Sports Rugby League commentators Eddie Hemmings and Mike Stephenson.

Sky Sports Rugby League commentators Eddie Hemmings and Mike Stephenson.

Known to millions as ‘Stevo’, he was part of Sky Sports’ coverage of the game for more than 26 years and became known to many as the voice of rugby league before his retirement last year.

Always outspoken, his animated opinions often divided fans.

And in one final dramatic twist, his inclusion on the prestigious list was almost accidentally kicked into touch.

Stevo explained: “It came as a nice shock, but the official letter had been sent to the wrong address so it was with a certain degree of panic that they tried to track me down just a week before the deadline of acceptance.

Mike with the Rugby League Championship cup won by Dewsbury in 1973.

Mike with the Rugby League Championship cup won by Dewsbury in 1973.

“What made it worse was I was on a cruise ship bound for Tasmania and couldn’t get any Wifi connection so couldn’t read any emails sent to me.

“Luckily, we docked into Melbourne which gave me just enough time to read my emails and to ring London and offer my acceptance.

“It was a with great pride that I was informed, it was a very proud moment.”

The former plumber played as a hooker for Dewsbury and Australian side Penrith in the 1960s and 70s, even winning the World Cup with Great Britain in 1972.

After a brief career as player manager of the Penrith side, he enjoyed stints on TV and radio in Sydney, where he had settled.

In 1988 he was invited to commentate on BBC Radio with sports journalist Eddie Hemmings - the beginning of an illustrious partnership between the pair spanning three decades.

Stevo said: “I worked for 26 years alongside my close friend Eddie, during this time and without his guidance and support I probably wouldn’t have lasted 26 minutes, never mind 26 years.

“Eddie has been an inspiration to me as also those people who guided me through a period of learning the game of rugby league, especially at the Shaw Cross Junior Club who gave me my first start.”

“My thanks go to my first coach David Bradshaw who saw something about my early days to push and guide me, and to Dougie Hird who helped found the Shaw Cross Club.

“Also there’s also support from the Dewsbury fans 
and my many friends in 
the district. To me, I’m proud to have been born in Savile Town.

“I feel privileged to collect such an award and despite living in Australia these days I will always be a Dewsbury and Yorkshire man through and through.

“Winning trophies and playing for your country obviously is a highlight of my playing career but to be awarded a Queen’s honour tops the bill,” he added.