All eyes at Wigan on Sunday were on Gareth Ellis, as the talismanic former Hull FC
skipper returned to the fray for his injury stricken team, after playing in a reserves
game eight days earlier. He certainly had the desired effect as Hull claimed their first
win since a home victory over Widnes Vikings in June of last year, in historically
But then I got thinking, because this seems to be becoming more of a trend in recent
times, with Ellis just the latest in a lengthening list of former players who have
returned from retirement for one last hurrah in Super League, particularly, but not
solely, in the fair city of Kingston Upon Hull.
In recent years several players have returned from retirement to don the boots and the
colours of their former clubs, both in competitive games and/or friendly games. Have
a look at this list of those that have returned to playing.
Jamie Peacock: The former Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos legend returned to
playing in 2016, almost a year after hanging up his boots after completing a
memorable treble with the Rhinos, he came out of retirement to wear the red and
white of Hull Kingston Rovers in their ultimately unsuccessful battle against the drop.
Kirk Yeaman: The man who has scored more tries in the Hull Derby than anybody in
history hung up his boots at the end of the 2016 season, having become the first ever
player to win the Challenge Cup twice with Hull FC, following up from their 2005
triumph against Leeds. But such was the Hull FC injury crisis last year, he returned to
the fold for the Magic Weekend derby against the old enemy. He only returned for his
375th appearance for his one and only club, before deciding that was enough, as the
Airlie Birds put more faith in their youth.
David Hodgson: The former Hull KR winger who retired at the end of the 2014
season, came out of retirement and played a few games for his hometown team in
their promotion winning 2017 season, having previously played for Halifax, Wigan,
Salford and Huddersfield since 1999. He had signed for Rovers for the start of the
2012 season and, after retirement had become an assistant coach at KCOM Craven
Park, before returning to the field.
Lee Radford: The current Hull FC head coach actually had three stints on the pitch for
his hometown team. he started his career in the days of Hull playing at The
Boulevard, before he was snapped up by Bradford Bulls for the start of the 1998
season. Having won all the major honours in the game at Odsal, Radford returned to
his hometown team for the start of the 2006 season, captaining his team to their one
and only Grand Final appearance, toppling his former club to reach the Old Trafford
showpiece. In 2008 he captained his team to Wembley, losing again to St. Helens. In
2011 Radford announced his retirement from the game, taking up a role as assistant
coach. But as injuries bit Hull in the early weeks of the 2012 season, he came out of
retirement for the Good Friday Derby against Hull KR, scoring the first try for Hull
that day, setting them on their way to a thumping win. Then coach Peter Gentle was
quoted as saying, for some time after that victory, Radford kept leaving his boots
outside his office, to make him aware that he was available to play again if required.
Adrian Morley: A bit sort of wishful this one. Moz announced his retirement at the
end of the 2015 season with his hometown club Salford. However he was soon
tempted out of retirement for one last game, as his debut club Leeds came calling, to
ask him to play one last game for them, in a one off game against the touring New
Zealand side, after the Rhinos had completed the treble.
Fetuli Talanoa: This one is a bit left field. But Talanoa had definitely retired from the
game, after a spell of 95 games for South Sydney Rabbitohs, which yielded 40 tries in
the NRL. Serious illness had enforced his early retirement from the game, while he
was treated at length in hospital. His return to full health saw him first get a job as a
binman in Australia, before Hull FC came calling, presented him with a lifeline to
resurrect his career. Originally signed in 2013 in the Peter Gentle tenure at the KCOM
Stadium, by the time he arrived for pre-season training for the 2014 season Lee
Radford had replaced the sacked Gentle. Only given a squad number then, Talanoa
grew into a cult hero on the terraces, playing every game in the 2014 season.
Currently injured, but he has an option to extend his current deal beyond the end of
this year, if he can make enough impact.
Micky Higham : In February last year both Leigh hookers went down with injury and then Coach Kieron Purtell asked Higham if he’d make a comeback after retirement . The legendary 9 had retired as Leigh lost their Super League status in 2017 and Higham said at the time that he jumped at the opportunity to help out the club closest to his heart
Gareth Ellis: We couldn’t not have the former Hull captain in this list, being the man
of the moment as far as this goes right now. We’re still unsure whether he will carry
on against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday, but by all accounts he did a superb job at
Wigan, and few could argue with his current level of fitness after a particularly
grueling cycling challenge for the Steve Prescott Foundation recently. I suppose time
will tell, but if he plays against Huddersfield, he then has a chance to welcome his
former employers Leeds to the KCOM Stadium a few days later, and his availability
would be a big plus with Easter weekend coming soon.
There you have a list of some of the games greats, but also we should maybe consider
the benefits of other recent retirees, who could maybe still have a place in the new
look Super League! What wouldn’t we all give to see the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Rob
Burrow, Richard Horne, Keiron Cunningham, Sean Long, Steve Menzies, Thomas
Bosc, Paul Wellens, Lee Briers etc all back on the pitch, even for just one last hurrah?