Hey guys!! As the part 3 of my ‘famous people from Hull’ series, todays post is going to be all about Clive Sullivan. Clive Sullivan was the first person ever to play for both of Hull’s rugby teams, Hull FC and Hull KR as well as Oldham and Doncaster in his career. He also captained the Great British Rugby team in 1972 who won the Rugby League World Cup and in doing so, became the first black captain of any British national sporting team. He scored 250 tries for Hull in 352 games which is easily a club record and he’s an inspiration not only due to his incredible sporting achievements which many could only dream of but also he is described as being a ‘pioneer in the social history of British Sport’ as he helped change the public’s opinion on how they viewed black athletes. So in today’s post, I’m going to be sharing Clive Sullivan’s life story with you all as well as an exclusive interview that I conducted with his daughter, Lisa Sullivan.
Image source here.
Clive Sullivan was born 9 April 1943 in Cardiff, Wales so he didn’t originate from Hull. As a young teenager, he required extensive operations on his knees, feet and shoulders which made his dream of being a rugby player seem out of reach. Despite this, Sullivan didn’t lose hope and at 17, he was granted a trial by Bradford Northern Rugby League Club. The opportunity didn’t work out for him however Hull Rugby League Club clearly saw potential in him as they offered him a chance to play for them instead. During his debut for Hull, Clive showcased excellent cover defence through his surprising upper body strength and he earned the support of the Hull club as well as the city itself. He became renowned for his incredible speed and ability to defeat some of rugby league’s best wingers and although his knees still demanded further operations, he played 352 games for Hull throughout his career and scored 250 tries for them. He also played 213 games for Hull KR and scored 118 tries for them.
Image source here.
His international career ran parallel with this as he transitioned on to play for the Great British Rugby team. During 1968, he played 3 World Cup matches, scoring a hat trick against New Zealand but he was only able to participate in one match the following year due to injury. 1971 came around and he won a further 3 test caps against New Zealand with him being awarded the captaincy of Great Britain in 1972. The World Cup happened that year as well and after scoring a try in each of the 4 games Great Britain played in, he lead the team to victory and they became world champions. In what became one of the most famous tries in the history of the World Cup, Sullivan ran the length of the pitch to draw up 10-10 against Australia in the final.
By 1973, Sullivan’s Great Britain career drew to a close after 3 tests against Australia however he still continued to play club rugby with Hull KR, transferring back to Hull FC towards the latter part of his career. He became the captain/coach of Hull FC from 1973 to 74 and in the 1975 Rugby League World Cup, he lead Wales in all of their four matches, scoring a try to defeat England in the second game for Wales. Wales finished 3rd out of 5 teams in the World Cup. Sullivan was brought back into the Hull FC team in 1982 after serving for a period of time in the coaching staff and he played against Widnes in the Challenge Cup Final replay which Hull ultimately won. This match marked a milestone in Clive’s career where he recieved a winners medal for not one but both Hull teams. Sadly, he passed away at the young age of 42 from cancer but he will forever be remembered as one of Hull’s great sporting heroes and an amazing ambassador for Rugby League. A section of the A63 which connects the Humber Bridge and the city centre has been named Clive Sullivan Way in his honour.
INTERVIEW WITH LISA SULLIVAN
Lisa Sullivan, Clive’s daughter, agreed to be exclusively interviewed for my blog so a massive thank you to her for taking time to answer my questions.
- WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GROW UP WITH YOUR DAD BEING A RUGBY PLAYER? I was 13 when my Dad died so Rugby League just seemed part of my everyday life – another family so to speak. To me it was somewhere we spent every weekend in every weather! Everywhere we went, someone would stop to speak to my Dad and he always made time for everyone. If he wasn’t playing rugby on a weekend, he was opening a summer fair or the guest at a presentation. I didn’t like the attention he got at times especially when he switched clubs and as a young girl often struggled with this. My dad was just that – my Dad – and I always shared him with everyone. I didn’t appreciate the game or his success until I was older and realise now that I was privileged to be a part of my Dad’s career and some of the best times in our rugby league history.
- HAS YOUR DAD INSPIRED YOU IN ANY WAYS? IF SO, HOW AND WHY? My Dad will continue to inspire me every day. The older I get, the more I realise how much he achieved. To be the first black captain of a British sports team will continue to inspire me and my sons. To be the best you can be and determined to achieve what you want to achieve with or without adversity.
- WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR DAD’S? Ah so many achievements it’s so hard to pick one. If I had to, I would say him having a challenge cup winners medal for both Hull FC and Hull KR. The clubs he loved in my home city which I love.
- DESCRIBE YOUR DAD IN 3 WORDS. Determined, Disciplined and Friendly.
- ANY FUNNY STORIES THAT INVOLVE YOUR DAD? My grandma’s cat had kittens. I would’ve been around 10 and my Dad really hated cats but I wanted one. I begged him for one and being Daddy’s girl I got one. My mum, dad and brother Anthony told me that the first day we had him when I got in from school, the kitten had been to the toilet and needed its bum wiping. I got the toilet roll, got the cat to lift its tail up and wiped its bum. My dad found this hilarious but I didn’t!!
Thank you for reading this post!! Who’s your sporting hero? Let me know in the comments!! There’ll be another blog post out soon but until then bye for now!!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull