Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 19 - 23 October 2016 - Lee Crooks
Where did you grow up?
I am a Hull lad and grew up on North Hull Estate then I moved to West Hull and lived on Willerby Rd, which is where I learned to play RL
What was your first football experience?
When I moved to Willerby Rd I went to a school called Ainthorpe, the first sports class we had the teacher asked who wanted to play for the school rugby team so we all put our hand up and I was the last one picked. I ended up being captain of the team and things went from there
As a child what was your most memorable experience of Rugby League ?
We played in a league competition which we won as U11s but the highlite has to be winning a 7 a side comp with the school which use to be held at Craven Park Hull KRs ground before their home games. My school kit was actually red and white which went down well with the home crowd but I was actually a Hull FC supporter so wasn’t happy as they play in black and white
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
Steve Norton was my child hood hero and it was a tremendous honor to play in the same team as him when I made my debut as a 17 year old. I then went on to marry his sister which was even better
Experiences playing for Hull?
Lots of them, from making my debut against Salford at the Boulevard, 3 challenge cup Finals, 2 John player Finals, 2 Premiership Finals, 4 Yorkshire Cup Finals and the League Championship, we had a very successful team and playing with 4 Kiwi Internationals 2 Australin Internations one being Peter Sterling who was absolutely outstanding, what more could you ask for? Probably to win at Wembley would be the only thing
Can you explain the feeling of being the youngest Great Britain Test forward and what the Test match was like?
Quite surreal really, I was brought up in a grown up world and I also had an Ego which helped me as I knew I was good at rugby, and from the moment I was picked I new I belonged in that environment so nothing really phased me
Do you remember your first game in first grade, and what were the highlights and lowlights?
The game was at the Boulevard and it was very muddy so was hard to play on. I can remember Knocker saying to me just run into space and I will get the ball to you which is was I did, apart from that I cant remember much more
What was your highlight of playing First Grade football?
Being made Captain of Hull FC I felt very privileged to be given that role at the age of 21
What brought you to Wests?
I got a phone call from Paul Harrison who was the sports editor of the Sun Newspaper in the UK and asked me if I fancied playing in Australia as a club wanted to sign me. This was around February of 85, that club happened to be Wests and the rest went from there, I played at Wembley that year v Wigan and then flew out the week after
What was the Wests culture like?
Different to the one at Hull as they were a team which had success written all over them, but at Wests we had to fight for everything on and off the pitch. This really excited me and I saw it as an amazing challenge undoubtedly made me a better player
Your one year with the Balmain Tigers?
Yes and very disappointing one really. I wanted to challenge myself in a different way and obviously play with my team mate Gary Schofield which I was extremely excited about but unfortunately Hull decided to sell me to Leeds and that really upset the apple cart some what, so I had to fly back to the UK missed the National Panasonic Cup Final then got injured when I came back. I was probably in the best condition physically ready for the challenge but it just didn't happen for me.
What was the main difference between playing in Australia and the UK?
For me in my position it was the fact that a lot of teams went very much one out and had lost the skill set of passing especially in the forwards so this made it easier for me to make an impact
Who was your most respected rival?
I had the up most respect for everyone over their but probably more so for players who I played against internationally, so the likes of Blocker, Wayne Pearce, Les Boyd
What was the best team you played against?
The 1982 Australian side was by far the best team in my opinion
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
I had a lot of problems with my knees and the game was getting quicker, I played against Oldham in March of 97 and someone skipped around me to score and I knew then that the time was right
What followed after football?
I went into coaching for a while then worked for the RFL managing their Talent ID Programmes, and now I run a RL Academy in Newcastle which is part of Newcastle Thunder, Ive been involved in the game in some way since I finished playing
How has the game changed since your playing days?
Yes remarkably, very much more faster and the advent of full time players has made it a very athletic sport, whther that is for the best will be debated for a long time to come
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Goucho’s in Leeds
What are your hobbies?
Don’t have any, unless you can call watching rugby matches one
Have you collected your own footy cards ?
Did you keep a scrap book?
My wife did, I would just like to say that playing in Australia was a remarkable experience and one I will never forget, I have made lots of friends.