THOUSANDS of mourners lined the streets and packed themselves into church for the funeral of rugby league icon Steve Prescott.
Prescott, who died last Saturday following a seven-year battle with a rare form of stomach cancer, was given a rousing, emotional but profoundly fitting send-off.
Rugby aces Sam Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Lee Mossop, given permission by England boss Steve McNamara to leave the squad’s Loughborough training camp, were among the mourners who lined the streets outside St Mary’s Lowe House Church in Prescott’s native St Helens yesterday.
McNamara also attended and, along with ex-Saints Tommy Martyn and Chris Joynt, read bidding prayers to a packed congregation.
Led by Fr Tom Naylor, of nearby St Julie’s Church, the service included prayers in Steve’s memory and readings from friends.
Steve’s 12-year-old son Taylor delivered a gut-wrenchingly emotional eulogy to his late father.
Telling how he dreamt of becoming a professional sportsman like his dad, Taylor said: “I will do everything I can to make you proud. We love you, dad, and will miss you always.”
Friend and organiser with the Steve Prescott Foundation, Mike Denning, summed up his pal in three words: fund-raiser, fighter, hero.
He moved mourners to tears and laughter, recalling how his mate ‘Prekkie’ always demanded the best from himself and those he cared most about, and how he wasn’t afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve.
Perhaps most movingly, he also revealed how the 39-year-old had virtually beaten his cancer during the last few months of his life thanks to pioneering surgery.
However, he told how complications from years fighting the disease had taken its toll on his body and he died from those complications, not the disease itself.
“That was typical of Steve,” said Mr Denning, “he wouldn’t go until he had beaten cancer.”
The service ended fittingly with the rugby league anthem Abide With Me before mourners both outside and inside twice broke out into a spontaneous round of applause as his cortege left church and made its way to a private family service at St Helens Crematorium.