Debut: Vs St Helens (H) 24th August 1971
Honours: Championship (Winner: 1972; Finalist: 1973), Challenge Cup (Finalist: 1972),Yorkshire Cup (Winner: 1972-73, 1973-74)
The man who led the Loiners out at Swinton for the Championship decider in 1972 was 30 years old and many, prior to his arrival at Headingley – and especially at Castleford – assumed that his distinguished career was virtually over. How wrong they were.
The warehouseman had been troubled by persistent knee problems and the Wheldon Road management decided to end his 13 year association with his home town club rather than make him coach. Leeds, always a club prepared to take a gamble, were in the market having just uncovered the extent of the career-ending injury to Mick Shoebottom and, in the summer of 71 threw the arch try-poacher a life line. It proved to be one of the shrewdest acquisitions they made, not least when they went back to Castleford to snare his instinctive half back partner Keith Hepworth in the October.
A schoolboy prodigy at the then named Ashton Road Secondary, under the influence of devoted teacher Percy White, and with his buddies Hepworth and Johny Ward, they were the first Castleford schools side to win the prestigious Yorkshire Schools Cup in 1956, when they beat Maybury School from Hull in the final. He signed for Castleford two years later, his prowess such that Roger Millward, one of his contemporaries at the club was allowed to leave, and captained their Wembley winning sides in 1969 and 70 as the highpoints in his amber and black career.
Developing a reputation for the intercept, thanks to his outstanding reading of the game, he picked up a dozen Great Britain caps, touring in 1966 and playing in all three Tests against the Kangaroos, scoring nine tries in all and also made five appearances for Yorkshire finding the whitewash on three occasions. Known throughout the game as ‘Chuck’, he had played just over 400 times for Castleford when he arrived at Leeds, averaging a try every other game as he thrilled those ‘down t’lane’.
Despite the potential injury concern, his Leeds contract being centred on appearances and bonuses, he then went on to wear the blue and amber 100 times in a terrific four season swan song. That included two Yorkshire Cup wins and a prominent part in the club’s first John Player success meaning that his career had seen him capture every winner’s medal, having won six at Castleford who were the Floodlit Trophy kings at the time. Always quietly effective and self effacing, he had the ability and pace to time his incursions in games to maximum effect, his steely concentration enabling him to judge his support at the most opportune moment or to ghost in unseen to foil an unsuspecting distributor.
Being a peer of the great Leeds back division at the time – he toured in 1970 alongside five of them, playing in the First Test -he fitted seamlessly into the established group at Headingley and offering a different outlet. He had tasted Championship disappointment with Castleford in 1969 when Derek Turner’s men lost against Leeds at Odsal in dramatic fashion but the win over Saints three years later – under Turner – for the Loiners made up for it.
The tables were turned, though, in the 1973 Championship decider when Leeds were massive favourites to retain their crown against Dewsbury when he was sent off for the only time in his career after tangling with John Bates as the Headingley men slipped to a shock defeat. Memorably, Yorkshire Post correspondent Alfred Drewry likened the incident to, ‘catching the churchwarden with his hand in the collection bag.’ He played on for a further season, fittingly ending his Leeds career with a try in a rare win at Central Park. It was his 67th for Leeds and he also added 13 drop goals, another string to his bow, as he departed to become player/coach at Rockhampton in Queensland.
His final career stats of 304 tries in 540 appearances ranks him as the sport’s second most prolific number six behind Shaun Edwards.
A registered physiotherapist in his native Castleford, until Kevin Sinfield in 2004, he was the last Leeds captain to lift the title trophy.