Andy Gregory mourns 'world class player and 'world class bloke' Bill Ashurst after Wigan legend's death
Ashurst, 74, had recently returned to the UK from Australia due to ill health.
Despite attending a Wigan past players event at the weekend, his death was announced by the club on Tuesday evening.
Since then, tributes have flooded in from both at home and Australia, where he was regarded as a legend at Penrith Panthers as well as here in his native Wigan.
Leaving Gregory to mourn 'a world class player, and he was also a world class bloke'.
"I was a close friend of Bill's and, when I heard the news, I felt physically sick, it knocked me over," Gregory told Wigan Today.
"I know as recently as last Sunday he attended a past players event, and everybody was saying how fit and well he looked.
"He will be a massive loss not only to Wigan, but to Higher Ince, Rose Bridge, and everyone connected to local rugby league.
"He was a world class player, and he was also a world class bloke.
"And it won't just be in England they will be mourning Bill, because he was a legend - and I mean a legend - in Australia as well.
"He was that good for Penrith, they still used to fly him out every single year, for two or three weeks, to make a fuss of him.
"I've been trying to process the news, and I just keep thinking: 'Bloody hell, I'll never speak to Bill Ashurst again'.
"I'm sure he'll get a great send-off, because he meant so much to so many people, and he was just a great friend to have."
Ashurst also played for Wakefield Trinity as well as Great Britain.
Ironically his final appearance was against Wigan at Central Park in November 1988, when he came out of retirement to play one last game for Runcorn Highfield during a players’ strike.
"I played against Bill when I was a kid at Widnes and he was finishing at Wakefield," reminisced Gregory.
"But I'll always remember Wigan playing Runcorn in the late '80s, when Bill came out of retirement because they were short.
"Bill was in the back row that day, we ended up winning 92-2, and he was sent off for headbutting Andy Goodway.
"I remember it very well, Bill just didn't like him, they were losing heavily, and these things happen.
"I was laughing, Andy Goodway not so much.
"By the time Andy got up, Bill had already showered and got his suit and tie on!
"The next time I saw Bill, I said: 'Are you okay, Lurpak?'
"He said: 'You what?'
"I said: 'Are you okay, Lurpak?'
"He said: 'Are you feeling all right, Andy? What do you mean, Lurpak?'
"I said: 'Best butter!'
"But he had a great sense of humour, and he saw the funny side.
"You wouldn't get away with it now, but that's how you dealt with things back in the day...and he could certainly look after himself as well as play."