‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Danny Tickle in 2007. Going into the 2011 season, Tickle remains one of Hull FC’s key players.
You’ve performed outstandingly well this year for Hull FC and must be delighted with your Great Britain call-up.
Yes, definitely. I like how Peter Sharp coaches and it’s helped me to settle in quickly at Hull after my move from Wigan in the off-season. Peter told me that I could make the Great Britain squad and I got the call of Tony Smith at the end of our season which I was very happy with. I’m in the squad for the All Golds game which is exciting and it’s been great to meet the guys from the other clubs and to speak to guys like Adrian Morley. I’ll learn a lot being involved and I’d love to play in the Test series.
When did you realise that you could make it as a professional player?
It was when scouts came to watch us play when I was an amateur player and my name would quite often get mentioned. I started playing at eight when I went down to my local amateur side Golborne Parkside. Later on, I got picked for the town team and began to think that it was something that I could pursue. Halifax showed the most interest so I signed for them and moved over there as a 16-year-old. John Pendlebury signed me and I moved in with our Academy coach Mick Scott who had played for Halifax and Wigan.
What do you remember of your first-team debut?
It was in 2000 in a game at Leeds and I played a handful of games that year. I remember getting a big hit of Graham Mackay after running on to a short ball from Gary Mercer. We lost but it was great to have made my debut, especially at a venue like Headingley. In 2001, I played a lot more games and picked up the ‘Best Prospect’ award at the club. I became a regular backrower with Martin Moana at loose forward.
Looking back, how good a team were Halifax when you played for them?
When I signed, they’d finished third in the previous season which was 1998. They were flying then and although they didn’t finish that highly again, we still had a competitive team. John was a very good coach and he advised me a lot early on and got me on the right track. On the playing roster we had guys like Gary Mercer, Martin Moana, Gavin Clinch, Andrew Dunemann, Brett Goldspink and Paul Davidson. I enjoyed playing alongside them and picked up a lot from them.
Why did you move to Wigan halfway through the 2002 season?
I heard that St Helens were interested in me and I was a Saints supporter so I was definitely interested in something happening and I jumped at the chance of speaking to them. There were a lot of money problems at Halifax and I wanted to move back to Lancashire as I’d just had a little girl and didn’t want the travelling anymore. I spoke to Saints but Maurice Lindsay found out and came in for me. Not long before the move, I’d scored a hat-trick of tries and 26 points in a game at Widnes and I think that’s what alerted Saints and Wigan.
Wigan had just won the Challenge Cup. Was it a daunting move to make especially as they had paid £80,000 for you?
It was, because I was joining such a successful club. I knew a few of the lads because I’m from Wigan and I bought a house right near to the stadium. I got friendly with Terry Newton and settled in quickly. I joined not long after that Cup win, but was unsuccessful in trying to get a Cup bonus! The transfer fee meant nothing to me because I didn’t know about it until after the move. It made no difference to me at all.
You played in the backrow with League legends Andy Farrell and Dave Furner – a great experience for a young player.
When I looked at their starting pack, I didn’t fancy my chances of getting in! But I got plenty of gametime and I picked up so much from Andy and Dave. Playing with guys like that – especially at such a young age – was invaluable to me.
In 2003, you kicked the drop goal against Leeds that took Wigan to Old Trafford.
That’s right. Luke Robinson was supposed to kick it but it ended up being thrown to me and luckily it got us through. It was an experience for me because it got me a lot more media attention that I was used to. In the end, the final wasn’t the best game for us and Bradford were too good for us. People tell you to treat it as a normal game but it’s not that easy when you’re out there. Walking out at a packed Old Trafford, I was pretty nervous. I also played in the Challenge Cup final the following year when we lost to Saints, so I’m still waiting to win a big final!
How good a coach was Mike Gregory?
Greg was a great bloke to play for and I’d played under him before for England. He did so well to get us to that Old Trafford final in 2003. He took over from Stuart Raper and really turned things around, taking us on a long winning streak right through to the final. It was at the start of the following season that he became ill which was terrible for us all. The experienced players all stuck by him and we were desperate to win the Challenge Cup final for him. That was his last game because we knew he was going for treatment after it so we were so disappointed to lose it. We wanted to do it for Greg but it wasn’t to be.
Wigan declined quite quickly in the next couple of years. What do you put that down to?
Denis Betts took over from Mike and kept things the same. He’d been Mike’s assistant and knew all the drills so we had some continuity there but we lost a lot of experienced players like Andy Farrell, Craig Smith, Terry O’Connor and Adrian Lam. They all went at the end of the 2004 season and proved to be very hard to replace. That was the main reason.
Does Wigan’s successful history provide an extra pressure for a current player?
It didn’t for me. It inspired me to go out there and achieve what had been achieved in the past. Whether that happens or not, I got such a buzz playing for a club with a history like Wigan’s.
Brian Noble calls the 2006 team the ‘Soap Opera Team’. How do you recall the infamous battle against relegation?
It was a difficult season obviously with people coming up to you all the time asking what would happen when we went down but Brian came in and did a great job. Everyone who has played under him agrees that he’s a great coach and to do what he’s done this year in the play-offs is great. Keeping Wigan up last year after such a traumatic time was the big achievement though and he can get them back up to the right end of the league.
How did your move to Hull come about?
There were a lot of rumours going about with my contract coming up. Brian wanted to keep me but when Stuart Fielden signed, there was a lot of Salary Cap talk. I was one of the players that they offloaded and I had a short space of time to find a club so when Hull came along, I was glad to speak to them. They reached a couple of recent finals and joining them meant that I wasn’t taking a backwards step from Wigan. I’ve moved across there and am renting a place. I’ve got another year on my contract left and there’s a great set of lads at Hull.