200 club – No 7 – Phil Coupland

Category: Heritage

200 club – No 7 – Phil Coupland

Philip Coupland was born in Hull in 1948 and signed for Rovers as a centre from East Hull ARLFC in April 1965. Six feet two inches tall and of a strong build, the versatile Coupland might not have been the fastest player, but he he was a powerful and talented member of Rovers back division over the following ten seasons.

Coupland made his Rovers debut at left-centre in a 27-3 defeat at Swinton on 9 October 1965. He made three more appearances that season, all at centre, scoring his first try for the club in the last of them, a 10-2 win at Doncaster month later. It was not until the 1967/68 season that he got another first team chance, when the retirement of Mike Blackmore created a left-wing vacancy. Scottish winger Greg Ballantyne got the first shot at making the position his own, but when Coupland was given a chance, he scored nine tries in 18 appearances on the wing to stake a claim for a regular place.

An injury at York early the following season held up his progress, but a try-scoring return to first team action at home to Featherstone on 9 November 1968, alongside debutant centre Geoff Wriglesworth, saw him score seven tries in eight games. That was still not enough to earning him a regular place, but he got another chance at home to against Salford on 12 September 1969; after which he retained his wing place for most of the rest of the season, scoring 19 tries in 29 games, including a personal best of four at Keighley in March.

After playing twice on the wing and once at centre in the first three games of 1970/71, an injury to Ian Markham saw Coupland moved to full-back. He remained there for most of the rest of the season, and proved to be a reliable performer, his solid defence and strong incursions into the line with ball in hand characterising his performances.  The following season, with Markham restored to the No 1 jersey, Coupland played most of the season at centre, where his winger Mike Stephenson profited from his strong running and unselfishness. It was in that season that he won his first medal with Rovers, having a solid game in an 11-7 Yorkshire Cup final win over Castleford.

In 1972/73, aside from a short spell in mid-season when Bob Smithies guested with the club, Coupland played mainly at full-back, where he made two-thirds of his 39 appearances. This was the season in which his occasional goal-kicking was most in evidence, and he registered 21 goals to add to his ten tries. He then missed the first half of the ill-fated 1973/74 season; returning to action at Christmas and assuming the thankless task of making 12 full-back appearances in a relegation-bound side. A second Yorkshire Cup winners medal followed in 1974/75, again in the centre position; but with Smithies at full-back, Ged Dunn and Clive Sullivan established on the wings, the young David Hall getting a good run at centre alongside Bernard Watson, his opportunities were becoming fewer.

Rovers returned to the First Division in some style that season, and recruited full-back Richard Wallace from York; whilst Alan Burwell was back from Australia, and the young Mike Smith was eagerly adding to the competition. After playing just three times in 1975/76, Coupland did not appear at all in 1976/77, and made a final Rovers appearance from the substitutes bench on 28 October 1977 in a 23-9 defeat at Salford. In all, Phil Coupland played in 214 games for the Robins, with 205 starts and nine substitute appearances. He kicked 26 goals and scored 69 tries for a total of 259 points. He was a valuable and versatile performer at a time of fluctuating fortunes at Craven Park.

Coupland subsequently moved to the Boulevard, where he made 17 appearances for Black & Whites before retiring from the professional game. He later spent several years coaching junior players at Hessle RUFC.

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