200 club – No 6 – Clive Sullivan

Category: Heritage

200 club – No 6 – Clive Sullivan

When he joined Hull Kingston Rovers in the summer of 1974, Clive Sullivan was already a legend at the Hull FC. He had made 352 appearances for the Black & Whites, and had scored 250 tries for them. It says a huge amount for the calibre of the man that after moving across the city, he retained his popularity at the Boulevard, and that Rovers’ supporters quickly accepted and welcomed him as a Red & White. He retained that popularity until his tragically early death at the age of 42.

Born in Cardiff in April 1943, Sullivan had a major leg injury at the age of 14 that threatened even his ability to walk. Overcoming this handicap, he started to play rugby whilst in the Army when he was based at Catterick. Invited for a trial match at the Boulevard in 1961, he scored three tries and signed for Hull FC the following day. Despite interruptions to his early career at the Boulevard due to army commitments and a serious car accident, Sullivan’s exceptional pace and strong cover defence quickly made him an automatic choice in the side.

Whilst with the Airlie Birds, Sullivan made 17 appearances for Great Britain, captaining the side to victory in the 1972 World Cup. He was the hero of the hour in the final, scoring a spectacular length-of-the-field try and making the crucial break for Mike Stephenson’s decisive try. Sullivan also achieved the remarkable distinction of becoming the first black captain of any national British sporting team.

Sullivan joined the Robins for a fee of £3,250 and made his debut at Doncaster on 25 August 1974, going on to play a leading role in Rovers’ 1974/75 promotion season, and in their BBC Floodlit Trophy, First Division championship and Challenge Cup successes over his six seasons at Craven Park. He acted as vice-captain to Roger Millward, and often skippered the side in the latter’s absences. As he got older, Sullivan lost some of the blistering pace that had characterised his great career, but he retained his strength, both in defence and with ball in hand near the line, and remained a fine reader of the game, with a knack of being in the right place at the right time.

After making 213 appearances for the Robins, in which he scored 118 tries, he was released at his own request to join Oldham in 1980. Returning to the Boulevard in 1981, he continued to combine playing and coaching duties until ill-health enforced his retirement in 1985.

Sullivan was awarded the MBE for his services to the game of rugby league in January 1974. In the 1975 World Cup, he led the Welsh team, and made 15 appearances for native country. His fame led to an appearance on the popular TV programme This Is Your Life. Sullivan made 640 career appearances in rugby league, and his 406 career tries made him seventh on rugby league’s all-time list. He remains the only man to have played over 200 games and scored over 100 tries for both Hull clubs, and, in his honour, the main road into Hull from the Humber Bridge was named Clive Sullivan Way.

After courageously battling a long illness, Clive Sullivan died in October 1985, just six months after playing in his last game.

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