Remembering Harry Poole
Legendary Hull Kingston Rovers skipper and first team coach Harry Poole tragically passed away on 25th March 1977 at the age of only 42.
Poole was born in Castleford in March 1935 and started his rugby league career with the famous Lock Lane amateur club. Hunslet then signed him on his return from National Service in 1956 and he soon became an established member of their famous back row of Poole, Gunney and Shaw.
Poole became Rovers’ then most costly player when he signed for the club for £6,000 on 25 January 1961. Later, Poole admitted to being devastated when Hunslet sold him, even considering quitting the game, but that said it was the best thing that could have happened to him. A six-foot 14-stone second-row forward, Poole was in his prime when he joined Rovers, and it proved an excellent move for both player and club.
In his first match, club skipper Jim Jenkin broke his leg and Poole took over the captaincy, which he held throughout his four and a half seasons at the club. A natural leader through his example and inspiration, he added an impetus and authority that helped the Robins make the transition from a mid-table side to one that challenged for the top honours. Poole was a fighter – over his career he had to overcome a number of serious injuries, including breaks to his leg, arm and fingers – and on the field, he was always at the heart of the action. Because of his excellent all-round game – he was a strong and determined runner, who had a keen eye for a gap and the ability to get away a pass in tight situations, was an excellent tackler and a useful kicker in open play – coach Colin Hutton converted him into a top loose-forward.
Poole played on numerous occasions for Yorkshire, but he won just three Great Britain caps – a reflection of the enormous loose-forward strength in the British game at the time. He played 123 games for the Robins, scoring 27 tries, before being sold to Leeds in September 1965. Again, he did not want to move, as team-mate Brian Tyson recalled. Tyson likened him to the great Rocky Turner on the field. “Both were very hard men who could do everything,” he said, “he was all over the field, always taking the lead. You couldn’t fail to be inspired by Harry.”
After retiring from playing, Poole went into coaching, and had a spell with his home town club, Castleford. He joined the Robins in November 1975, and was the first Rovers coach to have full control over team selection. He was hard but fair, and expected no less from his players than he himself had given. After a difficult start, by the beginning of 1977 his coaching and leadership were starting to bear fruit.
John Millington was a first team regular at the time, and he recalled, “Harry instilled a steel and aggression into the side that had been lacking, and he treated everyone the same.” Poole also addressed the team’s regular failing at the time of being a ‘soft touch’ away from home.
Then, just 15 months after he took over, his tenure was tragically cut short by a fatal heart attack. His legacy was the nucleus of the team that Roger Millward led into the club’s most successful era.
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