Great Britain have a rich and special history in rugby league. Captaining them was a special honour. Many of our sport’s greatest ever players have skippered the Lions and achieved superb success for the national team. But who are the best of the best?
5. Ellery Hanley
The man many people believe was the greatest British rugby league player of all time, was named captain of Great Britain in 1988 having scored a remarkable 12 tries for Great Britain in 1984. As skipper, he helped mastermind Great Britain’s first victory over the Australians in 10 seasons. Capped 34 times for Great Britain, he was a special player who led by example thanks to his sheer quality.
4. Frank Myler
Myler made 24 appearances for Great Britain and was the last Great Britain captain to lift the Ashes. The 1970 Harry Sunderland Award winner achieved plenty for St Helens but arguably did even more for his national team. In 1970 he captained the Lions in a Tour of Australia in which they only lost once and famously won the Ashes in Australia’s own back yard.
3. Harold Wagstaff
Wagstaff was known as the Prince of Centres and was certainly a class act for club and country in the position. After being named Huddersfield captain at the age of just 19, he would be named Great Britain captain 2 years later. He skippered Great Britain superbly in the famous ‘Rorke’s Drift’ match that year as Britain battled on when down to 11 men. After serving in Egypt in World War I, he returned to the sport to skipper Great Britain again in a tour of Australasia. The captain of Huddersfield’s famous ‘Team of all the Talents’ side was again vital for Great Britain in 1922. In the final test match of his career, he helped Great Britain reclaim the ashes from Australia.
2. Alan Prescott
Going into the second test of the 1958 Ashes series, Prescott knew he had to lead his side to victory following defeat in the first test. But three minutes in, disaster struck the Great Britain skipper as he shattered his arm. Naturally, the response to a broken arm is to leave the field of play. But no, he stayed on and captained his side to victory. Thanks to his courage and leadership as he held his side together as they claimed a 25-18 victory. And when Great Britain secured the trophy in the third test he was rightly treated as hero and carried around on the shoulders of his teammates. That was the peak of a superb stint as captain of his country. It was also the pinnacle of a career that saw him win the Lance Todd Trophy. He remarkably did not miss a test against the Australians between 1952 and 1956 and was a superb leader.
1. Clive Sullivan
The first black man to captain Great Britain in any sport did so as Great Britain won the World Cup in 1972. Those two statistics are enough for him to make this list alone. It takes a special leader to break down the barriers of segregation and oppression but to do so whilst guiding a side to victory is something else entirely. He led by example on the pitch too scoring four tries as Great Britain made it to the final. In the decider against Australia, he scored the equaliser before lifting the trophy as Great Britain won the World Cup.