Cult Hero: Brian Hancock

Brian Hancock was as loyal as they come.

Brian Hancock isn’t regarded as a Hull FC legend, but his contribution to the club was massive in an era where nothing else really went for us.

He isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and wasn’t as glamorous as your Peter Sterling’s or Steve Norton’s, but he warrants the same sort of recognition.

It takes a special kind of loyalty to be a one club man. We’ve seen that in modern times with Richard Horne and Kirk Yeaman who have both recently hung up their boots and received a heroes reception. Brian Hancock was the same, a loyal servant to Hull, who played his entire 15-year career with the Black and Whites.

Only seven players have made more appearances for Hull FC than Hancock, who enters the playing chart in eighth position with 410. He scored 107 tries in that time too and also kicked 18 drop goals – a record, although Marc Sneyd may have something to say about that in the future, to this day.

A locally-born half back, Brian endured some really tough times at FC. Back in the 70s we were pretty unfashionable – crowds were dwindling, finances were horrendous and the club yoyo’d between the first and second divisions.

Our fortunes changed for the better when Arthur Bunting took over the reigns at the end of the decade, and finals and silver polish were soon to be a popular combination. Hancock was still at the club then, and without him, and players of that mid-70s era, such as Alf Macklin and David Doyle Davidson, you could argue the ecstasy that followed wouldn’t have taken place.

Hancock, as my good friend Kevin Deighton regularly reminds me, was the only player to have played in both that unforgettable game at the Boulevard, where just 985 fans turned out to watch Hull FC against Huyton, and then again in the 1980 Challenge Cup final where 95,000 fans turned out at Wembley. It’s eye-opening how fortunes change isn’t it.

Ironically for Kev, who is showing no signs of ending a run that has seen him witness live every Hull game for the past 37 years, wasn’t one of those 985, but my old man Ian Tommo was, something he likes to point out on away trips.

Brian Hancock Hull FC

Hull FC team photo from 1970. Brian Hancock pictured (bottom left). The mascot to his right is non other than Dominant Ian, aka Ian Tomlinson.

As mentioned, times in that era for Hull FC were hard, but Brian Hancock wouldn’t let it faze him. His commitment to the club was incomparable, especially when you consider its severely likely he was never paid on time and is probably still owed money to this day!

Brian, like many before and after him, came from Beverley Rugby Union in an era where Union players were crucified if they even mentioned the word League, never mind turn out for rugby’s younger and more appealing code.

Pete Allen, a Hull FC author and blogger, who was just sixteen at the time of Hancock’s signing, says he was training with FC in secret, and then signed after a successful trial. A huge risk, knowing if he was caught, and if it didn’t work out, he would never play Union again!

During his Hull career, Brian became FC’s regular stand-off and oversaw the Hull transformation from lower league mediocrity to title contenders. He always gave everything on that pitch and enjoyed a spell as captain of the club.

Brian Hancock Hull FC

Brian Hancock in 2015, wearing and showcasing a proper Hull FC shirt!

His standout moment came against Leeds at Headingley in a John Player Trophy match, where he scored a sublime individual try, as well as kicking three drop-goals as Hull defeated the Loiners 23-11 – a game where winger Alf Macklin also scored a brace of tries.

Hancock led Hull to the John Player final that year and the Second Division title the following season. Hull were relegated from the top flight, but soon returned on the back of rugby league invincibility.

By then, and under Bunting, Hull’s emergence was well underway. Troubled finances were a thing of the past, as, and under the guidance of a sequence of influential players, Hull were promoted again, winning all 26 games of the 1978-79 season – a record still to this day.

The captaincy had gone to Vince Farrar and Hancock moved to the centre spot, and scored some great tries during a promotion winning year. The season after, he lined up at Wembley, something I’m sure he wouldn’t have believed possible after turning out at the Boulevard in front of just 985 people five years prior.

Through difficult times Brian Hancock stuck to the Hull FC cause, eventually earning his rewards. He won honours with the Black and Whites, was a former captain, and for Pete Allen, one of the most dedicated individuals he’s ever seen, and coming from Pete, that’s a pretty big deal.

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About Dan Tomlinson
Founder, editor and the main man behind Up the Cream.

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