The 1988-9 season was a landmark for one of the try scorers in the Loiners’ epic Elland Road triumph. For quietly spoken, unassuming Leeds centre Carl Gibson – a £50,000 capture from Batley, a club record receipt, by Peter Fox in January 1986 – it was an introduction to the big stage and a performance that made more than the good folk of Yorkshire sit up and take notice of his capabilities.
His long range double, including a thrilling length of the field, siege lifting interception, not only ensured silverware back at Headingley, but his second score – a his twist of the hips and acceleration away from Gary Belcher to the leave the Australian Test full back clutching at thin air – became the defining image of the contest.
It dispelled any doubts that Gibson could perform at the highest level, many having felt that – through sheer, admirable loyalty – he had stayed at Mount Pleasant too long. Two years later, in the opening Ashes encounter at Wembley, he was sensational in defence, subduing Mal Meninga and former Leeds import Mark McGaw.
Great Britain won and might have claimed the series after a 20 year wait if, in the final play of the Second Test at Old Trafford, Meninga, in support of a long range raid from Ricky Stuart, had not been allowed to barge Gibson out of the way off the ball as the Kangaroos stole the match. Very much a homebird, Gibson did not take up the game until aged 11 when joining Batley High School.
Within a couple of years the school switched to rugby union and he gained Yorkshire and then England age group selection. On leaving school, he returned to his preferred love and began to make clubs sit up and take notice as he tore up the amateur game in the town, first with Batley Boys and then Shaw Cross. His speed and athleticism caught the eye of Hull Kingston Rovers who reputedly made a £10,000 bid to the pro club in the town even before he had made what turned out to be a try scoring debut against Keighley in 1982.
There were further enquiries at Mount Pleasant over the next five seasons as he gained a reputation as a terrific finisher, posting 81 touchdowns in 120 games for a moderate Gallant Youths outfit, consistency and potency that saw him gain Yorkshire honours under Peter Fox and GB selection from the bench in a 50-4 win against France, at Headingley, in March 1985, the first Batley player to win a cap for 22 years.
In blue and amber, alternating between centre and wing, he became more than just a noted finisher, working assiduously on his defence without losing any of his natural poaching instinct and developed a durability that saw him play a then club record 91 consecutive matches from February 1988 to October 1990. It was, ironically, only ended by a bout of food poisoning. At the end of the ’88 season, Malcolm Reilly, reverting to his national coach role, selected Gibson as an early replacement for the Lions tour where he played in ten non-Test fixtures to complete his international apprenticeship.
Two years later he was on the plane to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, playing in all five Tests and scoring a crucial try in an 11-10 victory at Palmerston and winning the ‘Player’s Player of the Tour’ award. He ultimately made 11 Test appearances, scoring three tries and donned the white rose eight times. During nine seasons at Leeds, he scored of 91 tries in just short of 200 matches but a badly broken leg saw him out of contention for almost a full season and he found difficulty regaining his place in the first team and moved to Featherstone in 1993, where he was reunited with Peter Fox.
He was at Post Office Road for three seasons before returning to Batley to end his professional career where it started, but was forced to retire due to injury after just one game. He recovered sufficiently to play at amateur level a couple of years later.
Professionally, he took up posts in education working with underprivileged children at a residential home in Leeds and a school in Halifax.