THE former St Helens, Hull FC, Wakefield Trinity and England full-back Steve Prescott MBE, who helped raise nearly half-a-million pounds as he battled a rare form of cancer, has died at the age of 39.
A thrilling broken-field runner of the ball as a player, Prescott earned hero status at hometown Saints where his feats included a two-try performance in the 1996 Challenge Cup final success over Bradford Bulls at Wembley.
However, he also won acclaim from the knowledgeable Hull public during two spells with the Airlie Birds totalling five seasons and splintered only by one solitary campaign at Wakefield in 2000 when he also represented Ireland at the World Cup after earlier success with England.
Like most full-backs, Prescott was typically brave on the field, but that courage shone through more than ever after his early retirement from the game due to a knee injury in 2004.
Two years later, he was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei an uncommon type of stomach cancer.
Prescott was given only months to live and told that he would not see his two children grow up.
However, he underwent major surgery and then chemotherapy treatment to try to control the remaining disease.
But it was during this time the determined Prescott began fund-raising, as always leading from the front and undertaking a series of gruelling challenges whether cycling from Perpignan to Wembley, rowing down the Thames or running the London Marathon.
The Steve Prescott Foundation was started with two organisations close to his own heart - the Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester and Try Assist, formerly known as the Rugby League Benevolent Fund - receiving the benefits of his relentless charity activities.
Given the scale of his work and endeavours, in light of simultaneously fighting such a condition, it was no surprise when Prescott was awarded an MBE in the 2010 New Year Honours list in recognition of his services to rugby league and charity.
He continued raising money until finally succumbing to the disease just a couple of months short of his 40th birthday and leaves a wife Linzi and sons Taylor and Koby.
Since his death a week ago, there has been mounting support in favour of naming the Super League Man of Steel after the player; given its title for the player who has the biggest impact on the season, there would be nothing more fitting.
Leeds Rhinos prop and former England captain Jamie Peacock said: “Steve became an inspiration beyond rugby.
“He decided that the mind would rule the body and was a great, humble and courageous man.
“The amount of money that Steve raised through the Steve Prescott Foundation after he was diagnosed with cancer, the deeds he took on and the very fact he survived seven years after he had been told he had months to live all tell you so much about him as a person.”
England coach Steve McNamara, a former team-mate of Prescott’s at Wakefield, described his efforts as “superhuman” and added: “You put his qualities as a player and a human being together, and it’s a sad loss for everyone who knows him.”
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend a requiem mass for Prescott at Lowe House Church, North Road, St Helens on Monday at 11am.
It will be followed by committal at St Helens crematorium which is for family and close friends only.
The Prescott family have asked for family flowers only – donations in lieu of flowers can be made to The Steve Prescott Foundation c/o www.justgiving.com/steveprescottfoundation or by cheque made payable to Steve Prescott Foundation, 5 Welbeck Road, Wigan WN3 6 RS