Clive Sullivan

Clive Sullivan was born on the 9th April 1943 in Splott, Cardiff. He started playing rugby after being introduced to the game at school and won selection for Cardiff schools once, but any further progress was halted by a leg injury at the age of 14. Doctors told him he may never walk properly, let alone play active sport again.

Army career
After leaving school and working for a while as a motor mechanic he joined the Army in 1961. He completed his basic training at Catterick in North Yorkshire and was trained as a radio operator. While there was picked for an inter-corps rugby match, he chose to play in the match to avoid drawing attention to his leg injury but planned to play badly to avoid being picked again. However, instinct took over and after scoring a long distance try with no ill effects, he decided to make the most of the army training to further progress his hopes of playing rugby.

He qualifed as a radio operator and then volunteered to become a paratrooper. After gaining his wings he joined 216 Parachute Signals Squadron at Farnborough, Hampshire. He saw active service with his unit in Nicosia, Cyprus in January 1964 and was subsequently attached to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and was awarded the United Nations Medal for his service.

Trials at Bradford and Hull
After an unsuccessful trial game at Bradford Northern he was approached by the touch judge from the game and offered a trial at Hull. His trial at Hull was a different story, dubbed Mr. X by the Hull Daily Mail he scored three tries and signed as a professional the following day.

Clive’s first three seasons were restricted by army duties, three knee operations, and a nearly fatal car crash in October 1963 although he returned to play again just three months later. He left the army after a spell in Cyprus in 1964. Free of his army commitments he returned to Hull in time to play the last game of the season.

International debut 
In 1967 he scored 28 tries in 28 matches and made his international debut for Great Britain scoring 2 tries against the French. The following year saw him score seven tries in a single match against Doncaster. His international career peaked in 1972, when he was chosen captain of Great Britain – the first black player to lead a British national team in any major sport – and led the squad that won the world cup.

Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers
He had scored 250 tries for Hull before he shocked the city by leaving Hull for Hull Kingston Rovers in 1974, where he won a championship medal in 1979. His 113 tries in six seasons at Hull KR made him the only player to score 100 tries for both Hull clubs. He returned to Hull HC in 1981 and continued playing until April 1985.

Just six months after his final appearance Clive Sullivan died of liver cancer on 8th October 1985. His funeral was a mass of black and white and red and white shirts. He has been commemorated thanks to the approach road into Hull, Clive Sullivan Way.

Thanks to David Pearcy for researching and contributing information about his army career.