Here is another, shorter, interview Phil Clarke did with me, this time for Rugby League World in 2007, about the Wembley schoolboys’ curtain-raiser, a game he took part in in 1982 – and burst into tears when he had a try disallowed!
THIS year’s curtain-raiser to the Challenge Cup final will be the Year Seven School’s final between Castleford High and Normanton Freeston.
Phil Clarke, formerly of Wigan and Sydney Roosters and now a Sky Sports commentator, played in the schools’ match in 1982, the year that Hull and Widnes fought out a 14-all draw in the main final and, along with fellow ex-finalists Chev Walker, Kevin Sinfield, Terry O’Connor and Denis Betts, Clarke has a Champion Schools medal named after him.
“I played for Wigan Under-11s against Morley which is in Leeds,” he said. “I don’t remember too much about the game itself but I remember a lot of the excitement. We went collecting in pubs and clubs beforehand which was an exciting thing for a 10-year-old to do. Everyone in Wigan was so generous and we got measured up for suits in a menswear shop in Ashton.
“We stayed in a hotel the night before the game and it was the first time a lot of us had stayed in a hotel before. It had a shoe shining machine which I remember us all using!
“We got changed in the same big room as the brass band. That’s one things that sticks out. My main memory from the game was going 60 metres to the line. I got tackled but still got over the line but I’d put a foot in touch and the touchjudge put his flag up and denied it. I cried! It’s captured on video too so I’ve got the embarrassing evidence. The touchjudge was a teacher from Wigan and his mates told him not to go out for a pint in Wigan for a while in case he bumped into my dad!
“We played incredibly well though and we were so well coached by a teacher called Mr Mulanney. Even back then, he drilled the passing quality into us and some of the tries we scored were fantastic, moving the ball from one side of Wembley to the other.
“We got our medals from Stu Francis who was famous for the kids’ TV programme Crackerjack and after the match I got into the Widnes dressing room. One of our players was the nephew of a Widnes player and he got us in. I remember the subdued atmosphere because they’d drawn. I also recall the big baths. They were those massive traditional baths. You never think that in less than ten years time you could be back playing in the big game but that’s what happened.
“I played in 1991 against Saints and was a travelling reserve for the 1990 final against Warrington. That’s the most depressing experience because you’re so close to it all but, at the same time, so far from it.
“All in all though, my tip for any kid playing at Wembley this year is don’t cry!”
Champion School Medals are named after the following players:
Year Seven: Chev Walker
Year Eight: Kevin Sinfield
Year Nine:Terry O’Connor
Year Ten: Denis Betts
Year Eleven: Phil Clarke
Year Seven: Sophie Cox – (played in an Under-11 ‘boys’ final)
Year Eight: Lisa McIntosh – (Women’s international)
Year Nine: Kath Hetherington
Year Ten: Brenda Dobek (Women’s international)