Probably the greatest character ever to play in a Black and White shirt, Mick Crane’s time at Hull FC was certainly eventful.
The former Threepenny favourite still has a reputation today as one of the greatest players to have ever played for the club, and given some of the personnel amongst him, that’s a pretty big statement.
On the pitch Crane was a different class, but off it, well that’s a different story, smoking a pack of cigs a day, and turning up to training still pissed or hungover.
Pete Allen, a good friend of mine who writes the Dentist Diary, and who has watched Hull FC since the Victorian times said, “We have had some real stars when it comes to off field antics and indeed, some right jokers on it, but few if any can match Crane.
“He was one of the most talented players I have ever seen in the famous hooped shirts, and yet he drove coaches and supporters to distraction with his antics and by frequently going ‘missing’ for sometimes weeks on end.”
Mick Crane was as elusive on the field as he was off it. He was signed on the 4th December 1970 from local rugby at a time when things weren’t going so well at Boulevard. Finances were tight, and the Threepenny standees were certainly long suffering, but that was soon to change.
Craney, even in his early years at Hull FC, found himself with more time on the ball than most, yet gave little indication then of what was to follow. He soon earned himself a reputation off the field as he hated training and wasn’t worried who he told about it.
Later in his career Mick moved from centre to the loose forward position and it was then where the Boulevard goers realised there was a special talent there.
Pete said, “The loose man position gave him a licence to ‘officially’ roam the line. Mick had the ability to transform a game in a spilt second with something so simple, yet so well executed that it left the opposition mesmerised.
“Both on and off the field Mick was a gambler. He always risked something audacious, like a short kick whilst still in his own twenty. He defied all the rules and textbooks about being an athlete.”
Mick Crane’s first spell at Hull ended in 1977. Leeds got him for a then record fee of £13,000 but his time with the Loiners was cut short, and he was sold to the old enemy for £9,000.
You would imagine that his popularity diminished after two spells at Hull’s biggest rivals, yet his second stint at the Boulevard was something else, and what he is most remembered for.
Memorable, but no different with his antics, Craney enhanced his reputation and when Gary Kemble came to the Boulevard he wrote a letter back home to Dane O’Hara stating, “One of the best players we have here smokes cigarettes not just after games but before them and even during half time!”
Crane, after rejoining Hull in 1981, soon appeared in two Wembley finals, and featured from the bench in the ’82 replay win over Widnes. He suddenly began to take the game more seriously and even made his Great Britain debut that year against Australia, a side he played against for Hull in that famous 13-7 defeat.
Many fans are convinced we’d have beaten the ‘invincible’ Aussies without that ‘bloody ref’, and having been given the DVD by a generous fanzine reader not so long ago, you can only agree. Crane took the Man of the Match award that night after a sublime performance.
He had a startling ability to pick the right lines, find space and put people through. It was a heroes display and even more astonishing when you realise what he was up against.
Mick though soon went hit and miss again with his off-field antics, departing Hull in 1984, before signing again until he finished playing for good in 1986.
Pete Allen continued, “Mick told me in the Punch Hotel in Victoria Square that he had officially retired. He was such a likeable bloke, and were he to be around the game now we would no doubt brand him as being totally laid back in everything he did.
“He was a great player and ghosted through defences time and time again. Mick retired as a real legend in the eyes of the Faithful.”
Mick Crane went on to make 359 appearances for Hull FC. It’s easy to remember his outbursts, his tantrums and various addicts, but amongst all that he was a character, a sublime rugby league talent and considered by many a legend.