Rugby league coach Gerard Stokes, father of cricketer Ben Stokes, passes away

Gerard Stokes, the former Kiwis rugby league player, coach and father of England cricket star Ben, has died after battling brain cancer.

Stokes, 65, leaves behind wife Deb and sons James and Ben.

His death was first announced by his former rugby league side Workington Town who posted a tribute on social media.

In an interview with the Weekend Herald at his Christchurch home, Stokes, revealed he was diagnosed with the illness in January on his return to Christchurch from South Africa.

Stokes senior was admitted to hospital in Johannesburg ahead of the Boxing Day test due to a brain bleed for which he required surgery.

It was reported at the time as a “serious illness”. Further tests on his return to New Zealand revealed cancer.

Stokes, a well-known Canterbury league identity, coached professionally in England for a decade before returning home seven years ago.

Once back in Christchurch, the qualified builder and a man notorious for his toughness led a large team who worked with inmates at Rolleston Prison, a role which he said taught him a great deal about empathising with those less fortunate.

Ben, 29, one of the world’s best allrounders, was just 12 when he left Christchurch with his parents to live in the north of England; a journey which put him on the path to cricketing stardom.

He played a key role in England’s dramatic World Cup final match against New Zealand at Lord’s last year which was won on countback by the home side. But he acknowledged to the Herald in August that his dad, known as Ged, plotted a path in a different and no less significant way.

“He was tough [on me]. But as I got older I realised it was all for a reason. He knew I wanted to be a professional sportsman and he was drilling that into me as I started to make a career in cricket.”

As has become traditional, he recently celebrated a century against the West Indies in Manchester with a three-finger salute, a tribute to Ged, who dislocated a finger during his league days and requested an amputation in order to get back on the field quicker.

“His reputation sort of speaks for itself,” Ben said. “You speak to anyone who knows him, played with him or worked with him, they’d all say the same thing. Most people acquire a softer side with age and sometimes with dad that has been quite weird to see.

“What he’s going through has brought that side out as well – we all knew he had it, he just didn’t show it that often.”

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