Hall of Fame - Career Details
The modern history of Widnes Rugby League Football club has been shaped by two loose forwards, natives of the town, where careers followed a similar path. At around the same time that a teenage Doug Laughton was signing for St. Helens, the veteran Vince Karalius was leaving Knowsley Road for Naughton Park. It was Vince who set the ball rolling.
Born Vincent Peter Patrick Karalius on October 15th 1932. his father was Scottish and his mother Irish, whilst his grandparents originated from Lithuania. In early life he aspired towards a career in Association Football (Soccer) as a goalkeeper, though it did not take him long to come to realise that his future lay with the oval ball game.
At sixteen he played for West Bank juniors under team boss Frank Grayson, of whom Vince later said, “He knocked plenty of rugby, and sense, into me in those early days.” Frank’s rigid discipline was exactly what the enthusiastic young man needed at the time.
When Karalius finally made the move up to the professional ranks it was not with his hometown club but with St. Helens, whose trainer Peter Lyons had recently left Widnes. That was in August 1951 and eleven success filled years followed bringing many honours including captaining of his side to victory at Wembley in 1961. His powerful running and ferocious tackling had earned him Test status and the Australians were so impressed with his all action style that they dubbed him “The Wild Bull of the Pampas.”
On his move to Naughton Park in 1962 he was appointed club captain, taking over the role from his cousin, Frank Myler. Vince later said of the transfer: “Some players come back to spend their last seasons at their own home town club like horses being put to grass. I came back to Widnes determined to give 100% effort.”
In his first season here, Widnes finished third in the Championship, equalling the club’s best ever league placing. The following campaign, 1963/64, saw him lead his team through an epic Challenge Cup campaign of nine matches (including replays) before he lifted the cup at Wembley following a 13-5 victory over Hull K.R. This was the Chemics first trophy success in eighteen years. If Vince Karalius had been five years younger at that juncture, then there is no knowing what he could have achieved as a player at Widnes, to what new heights he might have inspired his colleagues. As it was time caught up with him, for in 1966 he announced his retirement and Rugby League lost a player whose commitment and dedication were second to none.
Six years later Vince was back on the Naughton Park scene, this time as coach. He introduced a new regime to the club with fitness being the key, and set himself a target of turning Widnes back into winners within five years. It didn’t take that long! In the season 1974/75 Salford were beaten in the Lancashire Cup Final and the much fancied Warrington in the Challenge Cup. For the first time ever the Chemics had won two trophies in the same season and Karalius, with his job done, stepped down once again. He did return briefly in 1983/84 to coach the side to more Wembley glory but by then the Widnes fans were used to seeing their team victorious.
The achievement of Vincent Peter Patrick Karalius was that he had joined a club which despaired of ever recapturing the glory days of the 1930’s, and breathed new life into it, first as a player and later as a coach. So much so that he helped found a dynasty which has made Widnes one of the great clubs, to rank with the giants of Wigan and Leeds. Without doubt he can be considered as Widnes’ equivalent to Liverpool’s legendary manager Bill Shankly.