To mark the 2020 Grand Final being played in Hull this Friday, I have decided to name the top five Hull-born Super League players of all time.
This is not a definitive list, nor is it done in any particular order; I am simply naming the five players who I think are the best to have played in Super League.
The current England and Great Britain number nine Josh Hodgson has come into his own since joining NRL outfit Canberra Raiders. Born in Hull, he made his Super League debut with Hull FC, playing just two games for the Black & Whites, before making the cross city move to Hull Kingston Rovers. After his move down under, he sprung to even greater prominence progressing from the England Knights, to the full England team and was involved in the ill-fated GB tour down under last year. Hodgson has a great engine, kicking game and is dominant in the middle of the park – attributes which helped Canberra reach the NRL Grand Final in 2019.
Former St Helens captain Jon Wilkin is one of the most successful Super League players in history. He played a staggering 404 games for the Saints over 17 trophy-laden seasons, featuring in an almost unrivalled number of major finals. It all started at hometown team Hull Kingston Rovers though, where the workmanlike back-rower impressed before joining Saints in 2002. The former England and Great Britain star also has the ability to drop into the halves as well, with an uncommonly good kicking game for a forward. Wilkin was earmarked at an early age and he made a big return on Saints’ investment.
Early in his career, this Hull-born lad was learning from the very best, as he watched the likes of Richard Swain and Shaun Berrigan don the black and white no.9 jersey. At the time of his breakthrough, it was a well established fact that clubs would always pick their big money stars from down under before young English talent, but Houghton changed all that when his performances convinced Hull FC to allow Australian superstar Berrigan to leave before the end of his contract. Houghton, now Hull FC captain, wrote his name into club folklore in 2016 with #Tackle52 at Wembley on Ben Currie, before being named as the Steve Prescott Man of Steel. He has also won the Super League Hitman award no fewer than five times, racking up over 350 appearances so far for the Airlie Birds.
Everybody associates the Sullivan clan with Wales, rightly so as well in this case, with Anthony having followed his father Clive’s footsteps into playing international rugby league for Wales. But it is also true that the Welsh wing wizard was born in the fair city of Kingston Upon Hull, the city in which his father made his name with both sides here, and who now has a road named after him. Anthony started his career on the red and white side of Hull, before joining St Helens where Super League titles and Challenge Cups were a regular feature of the flying welsh-man’s career. Sullivan scored 213 tries in 305 games for the Saints, before later becoming a dual-code international.
One-club-man ‘Yeamo’ certainly has to rank right up there when it comes to the best. During his career he was a Grand Finalist, part of the Great Britain team that famously defeated Australia in 2006 and became the first ever Hull FC player to win the Challenge Cup twice with his hometown team. Put that alongside the fact he was at one point in the top 10 all-time Super League try-scorers list, as well as scoring more tries in the Hull Derby than any other player in history. He did all this in the face of much personal and club adversity, even coming out of retirement in 2018 to face the old enemy at Magic Weekend in Newcastle. That was Yeaman’s 375th and final appearance for the club, ending on a high as he helped his beloved Airlie Birds to victory over the Robins.