The Clive Sullivan Story

Hull FC record try scorer Clive Sullivan.

The story of Clive Sullivan MBE rivals even the top blockbuster Hollywood film.

A child born in the one and only Black family of a tiny Welsh town with weak limbs, he was told he may never walk again, yet alone play rugby league.

That fact alone highlights the inspirational man Sully was. Despite numerous operations to his knees and shoulders, army service, and the so near death experience of a car crash, Clive remains to this day one of the City of Hull’s most idolised sons.

A prolific career saw him pull on the jerseys of both the City’s two rugby league clubs, Hull FC and Hull KR, with a streak of individual honours and milestones to his name.

The Welsh winger was the first Black captain of any of Great Britain’s sporting sides. He is Hull FC’s record try scorer, a World Cup winner, double Challenge Cup winner and adored so much by the City of Hull that the stretch of the A63 just before the Humber Bridge underpass to the City Centre is now named in his honour.

Clive Sullivan Hull FC

Clive Sullivan in action for Hull FC.

Clive was born in Wales and whilst growing up in Cardiff as a teenager, required operations on his knees, feet and shoulders, making his illustrious rugby league career seem all the more exceptional.

Like many Hull stars before him, Sully joined the British Army, and was posted to Catterick where he played for the Army’s rugby team.

He had an unsuccessful trial with Bradford and was then offered a trial at Hull where he scored three tries and signed as a professional the following day.

Constrained by army duties, even more operations and an almost fatal car crash Clive’s first three years at Hull FC were restricted, but the club were certainly intrigued about Sullivan’s capabilities and gave him a chance to play rugby league.

Wearing the number two jersey the winger boasted phenomenal speed, and from his debut onwards was a cult hero.

Upon leaving the army Clive put his name amongst Hull FC’s rich history, scoring a try in the 12-9 Yorkshire Cup Final win over Featherstone.

From his Great Britain debut in 1967 Sully’s international career took him to new found heights. He scored a hat-trick against New Zealand in his first World Cup and became captain in 1972.

It was then where Clive Sullivan’s name really entered the history books as the last Great Britain World Cup winning captain. He scored a try in all four games, most famously a spectacular length of the field effort in the final against Australia.

Clive Sullivan Great Britain

Clive Sullivan lofted onto the shoulder of  now ex-Sky Sports commentator Mike Stephenson.

Clive then moved to Hull FC’s fiercest of enemies Hull Kingston Rovers in 1974. Very few sporting rivalries can match that of the two Hull clubs, especially in rugby league.

When Sullivan played for Hull FC he was in his prime, he was lauded as a god. Anyone with the slighest grasp of the intensity of the rivalry between the two teams could well have predicted him to become a figure of absolute hate – but that was not so.

Clive was idolised. He managed a respectable total of 118 tries in 213 games for Hull KR, most famously defeating his old employers 10-5 in the 1980 Challenge Cup final at Wembley – for arguably the most famous and well-known final in the history of the competition.

Clive Sullivan Hull KR

Clive Sullivan during his time with Hull KR.

After leaving Rovers – amid a brief spell at Oldham – Sullivan was unexpectedly called back into the Hull FC team in 1982 after a period on the coaching staff.

At the age of 39 he played in one of the most famous nights in Hull FC’s history as the club defeated Widnes 18-9 in a Challenge Cup Final replay at Elland Road.

Clive went on to play for Hull FC until April 1985, tragically dying of liver cancer just six months later. He was aged just 42.

clive sullivan hull fc

Today Clive’s place in Kingston upon Hull folklore is pretty much unbeatable. Since 2001 the Clive Sullivan Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the annual pre-season ‘friendly’ between the two Hull clubs.

To this day, Clive still holds two Hull FC records to his name. He is the clubs all-time top try scorer with 250, and holds the record for the most tries in an individual match with 7.

Besides that Clive is the only player to have ever scored 100+ tries, and win a Challenge Cup winners medal with each Hull club. He remains a hero on both sides of the river, with his commemoration everlasting thanks to the Clive Sullivan Way leading out of the City.

Clive Sullivan Club Record

Years

Team Played Tries

Points

1961-73 &

1982-85

Hull FC 352 250

1000

1974-81

Hull KR 213 118

472

1981

Oldham 18 3

12

Total

  583 371

1484

Clive Sullivan International Record

Years

Team Played Tries

Points

1967-73

Great Britain 17 13

52

1969-79

Wales 15 7

28

Total

 

32

20

80

With thanks to the Hull History Center. Images: Hull Daily Mail.

Author Image
About Dan Tomlinson 1974 Articles
Editor of Up the Cream. Once upon a time I looked like my profile pic.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Dan
    I am trying to put together a poetry anthology for 2017.
    Clive Sullivan played for both City and Rovers, which is unique in itself.
    However, I wondered if you knew of anyone who could write a poem about him of 5-20 lines for inclusion in the collection.I would prefer a poem from a fan, rather than a professional poet.

    Many Thanks

    Ray Kelly

    • Hi Ray,

      I have a couple of people who have wrote Hull FC poems for the website before. I’ll ask and get back to you.

      Cheers

      Dan

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