FORMER Ermysted's sports master and Skipton Rugby Club coach, David Stephens, who had an illustrious rugby league career has died at the age of 82.

Mr Stephens settled in the town after retiring from rugby although he moved to Colne in recent years but was looking to move back to Skipton at the time of his death. He died in Blackburn hospital after a stroke.

Although he found fame in the world of rugby league he was an accomplished all round sportsman. From Castleford, he captained Yorkshire Schoolboys at cricket and was UK junior triple jump champion in 1959.

He then went to York St John College to do teacher training specialising in sport and his first teaching post was at Airedale Secondary School in Castleford while turning out for the town's rugby (union) team.

He moved to Wakefield RFC but relations were soured as they wanted him to play on the wing rather than his preferred position of centre.

That made the decision to move to rugby league giants Wigan easier and he joined them in 1965-1966 where he was an instant success.

He played centre to one of the greatest players in rugby league history, Billy Boston, who had left rugby union because, as a black player, he had confronted racial discrimination in that code. Rugby league welcomed him and he represented Great Britain. At Wigan, Stephens was instrumental in setting up tries for the great wingman.

Wigan reached the RL Cup final at Wembley and Stephens was picked at centre but his team were beaten by their great rivals St Helens.

Stephens' first try in rugby league was against the New Zealand international team in their fixture against Wigan.

While playing for Wigan, he was employed as a teacher at Pemberton Boys School and he met a fellow teacher, Barbara, who he married in 1967.

A broken leg the following season disrupted his career and, after scoring 26 tries in 52 games for Wigan, he was transferred back to his hometown club in 1968.

Initially he was a regular but Castleford were entering a golden era and competition for his centre position was fierce. He was left out of the Castleford team which won the RL Cup at Wembley in 1970 and retired from the game. He played 40 games and scored 11 tries for "Cas".

Mr Stephens had resumed teaching at Airedale School but his retirement from rugby was prompted by a decision to move to Saudi Arabia where he taught PE.

In 1986 he returned to the UK to become games master at Ermysted's in Skipton where he also coached the school's rugby teams.

In 1997 he returned to Saudi Arabia before retiring in 2004 and returning to Skipton where he became a keen gardener.

He also joined Skipton Rugby Club and became involved in coaching duties before, in 2006, he became director of rugby, overseeing its playing operations at all levels.

The rugby league world has been paying tributes, describing him as a classy centre with a touch of steel who always conducted himself with dignity and sportsmanship on the pitch.

He leaves his widow Barbara and children Sarah, Emma, Daniel and Edward.