London rugby league followers will be sad to hear the news of the death of Tony Karalius. Tony was recruited by Fulham from Wigan in the summer of 1980. He had been considering retirement before being persuaded by player-coach Reg Bowden, who was his neighbour in Widnes, to play one more season in the key role of hooker at the age of 37. He was also the team captain. He added leadership and great experience to the new Fulham team.
In those days of contested scrums, the role of hooker was a vital one, and Tony played a major part in the club winning promotion in their historic first season. Managing director Harold Genders admitted later that he should not have released Tony and some of the other older players from the first season and could have used them as part of the squad in the club’s second season in the First Division, which ended in relegation. After leaving Fulham, Tony helped launch another new Rugby League club by playing a further season for the Cardiff Blue Dragons before retiring.
Tony was a member of a famous Rugby League family. His older brothers were the legendary Vince Karalius, and Denis who played for St Helens and Warrington. Tony won five Great Britain caps in the early 1970s and was a member of the victorious 1972 Great Britain World Cup squad.
His rugby league career began at Widnes, but really developed when he joined St Helens in 1967. It took him a couple of years to win a regular first team place, but he went on to play 355 games for the Saints. He played for St Helens in their Wembley Challenge Cup Final victory against Widnes in 1976, and also won the Championship, Premiership and BBC2 Floodlit Trophy during this time at Knowsley Road. He left to join Wigan in 1978, and made 39 appearances for the Central Park side.
Written by Peter Lush