‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Hull FC’s Lee Radford in 2007. Going into 2011, Radford is still at the club.
You were made Hull FC captain this year. How has that gone?
Not as well as I would have liked! We haven’t played as well as we’d like to have done and the same goes for my form. We’ve got eight games left and we want to put things right as soon as possible.
How much did the Paul Cooke situation affect you?
Well, it hasn’t helped. We’ve lost a lot with him being such a good player but we’ve finally got a replacement in Mathew Head who looks every bit as capable. Paul going was a shock but such is life. It’s his decision and he’ll stand by it whereas we have to move on.
You left Hull in 1998 and returned for the 2006 season. How much had the club changed?
Massively! There aren’t too many old faces kicking around from those days. The fact the club plays at the KC and not the Boulevard is the biggest difference but there’s also what the club has achieved on the field. The Gateshead thing really helped because the year before the club were nearly relegated. When I left, the club was in turmoil and people weren’t getting paid. We were sitting about waiting for cheques to come in that never did. I was 18, in my first full time season and was having to borrow money off my dad every other month. That’s not what I wanted to be doing. I was only on about £100 a week, which wasn’t enough for a young kid who wanted to be out and about, but when it didn’t materialise you certainly noticed it.
Peter Walsh bore the brunt of the fans’ frustrations. What was he like to play under?
Pete was a good coach although I don’t know who handled the recruitment whether it was him, Peter Tunks or Tim Wilby but, in my opinion, they brought the wrong players in. Tunks was a players’ agent and some of the blokes coming in were guys that he was representing. He was benefiting at both ends and the club was pretty corrupt at the time that I left. Those signings weren’t up to the job. But tactically Walsh was a good coach and he was a good bloke too.
How did you end up at Hull back then?
I signed as a 15-year-old having played for Mysons, my local amateur team. I made my debut for Hull when I was 16 and I’d also played Academy and Alliance. It was Phil Sigsworth who gave me my chance and I was disappointed to see him pushed out by the Tunks and Wilby regime. But, like I say, there were so many internal wranglings at the club back then that the fans don’t say. I got so much grief for going to Bradford but if people had known what was going on then they’d have done the same thing in my situation.
Would you be the player you are now if you hadn’t gone to the Bulls?
No. Not a chance. I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved. I’ve won all the English domestic honours and I’ve played for and vice-captained England. The great players at Bradford just roll off the tongue don’t they? But fans now still give me crap about it. On the radio when we’ve lost, they’ll still say, “he left us when we were struggling” and all that. Some of them have long memories.
How did you enjoy playing for Bradford?
It was a dream. No disrespect to the players who were at Hull but to be alongside the likes of Jimmy Lowes, Brian McDermott, Steve McNamara and Mike Forshaw was amazing. They were unbelievable professionals and I learned an immense amount of things from them. When we’d been beaten, I’d come into the next training session and they’d be there in the gym doing their extras, determined to put things right. Their attitude and professionalism won the club so many trophies over the years. Then there were the coaches. Playing under Matthew Elliott and Brian Noble did a lot for my game and look how many coaches were influenced by Brian Smith. As well as those two there’s Mick Potter, Karl Harrison, Brian McDermott, Jimmy Lowes and Steve McNamara who were all at the club.
Who was the best player there?
Jimmy Lowes would be up there but there are too many to mention I think. Jamie Peacock was a fantastic player at Bradford and then there’s Brian McDermott. Looking at his frame and physique, he probably shouldn’t have achieved what he did in the game but his dedication and commitment won him Great Britain caps. He’s a smart bloke and look how well he’s doing down at Harlequins. He’s taking players down there who weren’t getting a run like Chris Melling and Jon Grayshon, as well as Paul Sykes who was already at the club, and he’s turning them into very good players. These new quota rules should bring through more guys like this which can only be a good thing.
You ended your Odsal career in 2005 in the ultimate way by winning the Super League when you seemed dead and buried in the June.
Yes, that was a fairytale ending. St Helens had smashed us at Odsal, beating us by 60. Then everybody got themselves sorted out for the following year, contract wise and it just got the ball rolling. We got Morley for the play-off games and went on to beat Leeds in the Grand Final having put together a huge winning run of games.
What did you think of Morley coming in for such a short spell?
Andy Lynch and Rob Parker were unlucky when Moz came in, but Moz will add something to any team and he certainly did with us.
What was the highlight of your time there?
2003 when we did the Treble and then followed that up by winning the World Club Challenge at the start of the next season. The Challenge Cup at Cardiff under the roof was fantastic. Leeds v Bradford is noisy anyway but with the roof shut it was extraordinary.
How did your return to Hull FC materialise?
I’d been talking with Brian Noble about my contract but it went on and on and I just wanted to get things sorted. I’d spoken to Harlequins during the year and it looked like an option but with a wife and two young kids I wasn’t sure. As soon as I found out Hull were interested, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t moved from the area so it took away the two hours a day in the car as well which was a plus point. But to play for your local club is great.
Last season was a great year for you but not so this year.
Yes, it’s been a massive rollercoaster so far in my time back at Hull. We started poorly last year but then went on to beat every side after Peter came in for John Kear. It was the first time I’d experienced a new coach coming in mid-year and it gave everyone a boost. We went on a big winning streak and reached the Grand Final which was phenomenal.
Had John lost the dressing room?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t know why we weren’t playing to our potential though, we just weren’t. And we’re not at the moment either but sport is so up and down. Unfortunately for John, the club happened to be down back then and the club had to make a decision.
What are your memories of the Grand Final?
It was disappointing because the build up is so big and then to come away with nothing is a huge anti-climax. Being such underdogs takes away a bit of the pressure but we still all expected to win. We were on a roll with our league form and we beat the Bulls to get to the final so we were confident. They killed us with a couple of late tries on half time but there was nothing in it until then and it could have gone either way. Hopefully we can get there again and come away with the ring.
How excited are you by the club’s recruitment for 2008?
They look good don’t they? From what I know of them and from what I’ve seen on Setanta, Adam Dykes looks a very smart player and Shaun Berrigan is outstanding, especially in the recent Origin series. We’re signing players in the right positions.
You’ve played for England which much be a great honour but does the low profile of the games (compared to Great Britain) diminish that honour at all?
I know what you mean but I don’t think so. But in last year’s Federation Shield, the game against Tonga was taken to London and with no disrespect to the London fans, there are more people at East Hull games than there were at that. It was a strange decision to play the game there and they gave a lot of tickets away. I’m all for expansion but it has to be done properly. There was only one stand there and there looked to be no more than 250 people in the ground. I gave away 12 or 13 tickets and so did most of the players.
How focused are you on making the Great Britain squad this year or going to the World Cup in 2008?
I’d love it to happen but, in terms of focus, all I can do is sort my own form out and help Hull FC win games. Anything that comes off the back of that is a bonus. I just need to get wins under my belt and an up and down season like this is good for no one’s sanity.