The undeniable truth of the matter was that 25-year-old Mick Clark created not the slightest impact in his first season at Headingley, making only seven appearances out of a possible thirty-one, and that at a time when any forward really worth his salt could have walked into the team.
Nor did a bout of Yorkshire Cup-tie fever do the trick the following October. Still woefully lacking in drive and fire, and all the more fortunate on that account to be included in the team for the Final, he was rarely in the picture against a victorious Trinity thirteen at Fartown, and was promptly dropped for a month. Not that it appeared to have any effect, for he returned to give yet another mediocre performance at Wilderspool, with speculation mounting as to his future.
Strange to relate, it had never been brighter! Whether by chance or design on 12th December he was switched to field-side prop for the visit of Halifax and never looked back, the transformation being hard to credit. Could this really be the same man? Whereas previously he had been content to bow to circumstance, now he was constantly endeavouring to shape events, cultivating an unsuspected sidestep, and breaking clear at alarming pace for a front-row forward, with Mick Shoebottom & Co quick to profit as they bared up in support.
So it was, that in the space of twelve months the second-row misfit became a veritable powerhouse of inspiration, whose solid scrummaging, brave running, imaginative distribution and punishing first-time tackling played no small part in the Loiners’ renaissance of 1965-66. Indeed, when it came to the ‘crunch games’ he grew in stature, notably in the thrilling triumph over Hull in the 2nd Round of the R.L. Cup. Yet surely the one abiding memory of that campaign will be of his soul-stirring defiance in defeat in the Fartown semi-final, with Wigan, the winners by 7 points to 2, mightily relieved to hear the final whistle.
Fast becoming as good as any No 8 in the League, but still without a single representative honour to his credit, Mick pressed on regardless throughout 1966-67, exercising massive authority in both the tight and the loose as Headingley basked in the resurgent glory of the League Leaders and Yorkshire League Champions.
Came 1967-68, came recognition at last, and more, much much more. The Club captaincy, a debut for Yorkshire against Cumberland at Wheldon Road, followed by the Roses match at Naughton Park, a couple of Tests versus France, the one in Paris, the other at Odsal, a long-overdue Semi-Final rout of Wigan by 25 points to 4 at Station Road, the trauma of a last-kick reprieve in a bizarre Wembley Final, and a winner’s medal to prove it, League Leaders and Yorkshire League Champions for the second year running, and finally, the flight Down Under, along with Bev Risman, John Atkinson and ‘Mick’ Shoebottom, and selection for all three matches in the World Cup.
And so to 1968-69, with the Loiners quickly into their stride, yet no sooner had he raised the Yorkshire Cup aloft at Belle Vue in mid-October than he was relinquishing the captaincy to Barry Seabourne, on account of loss of form.
Not that it was apparent as he pointed the way to victory on numerous occasions, and never more crucially than in the closing minutes of that gripping Championship Semi-Final encounter with Salford at Headingley, when he cut loose to lay on the winning try with a devastating midfield burst.
Sidelined by injury for the second half of the Odsal Final against Castleford, what agony he must have suffered with the rest on the bench in that dramatic climax to another incredibly successful season: League Champions; League Leaders; Yorkshire Cup winners; Yorkshire Champions! Captain or not, he’d played his part nobly.
It was not to be, for just in the same way as Mick’s transformation in December 1964 came out of the blue. So too did his departure in October 1969 to join Keighley as player-coach.