Birmingham Post - - SPORT -

TRUE Pro­fes­sional opens at the Stade de Ger­land, in Lyon, France, a venue au­thor James Oddy calls “not the most ob­vi­ous choice for the Rugby League World Cup fi­nal”.

The 1972 fi­nal saw Great Bri­tain go head-to-head with peren­nial ri­vals Aus­tralia, cap­tained by Graeme Lang­land, while GB were led by Clive ‘Sully’ Sul­li­van, the very first black Bri­ton to cap­tain a Bri­tish sports team. The BBC were present, rep­re­sented by the in­com­pa­ra­ble Ed­die War­ing, but only diehard league fans made the jour­ney to cen­tral France and for most of the match the play­ers’ shouts were as audi­ble as those of the pal­try 4,000 crowd.

Great Bri­tain equalised with seven min­utes of nor­mal time re­main­ing, en­sur­ing the duel went into ex­tra time. In­cred­i­bly, how­ever, there was no fur­ther score and the con­test ended 10-10 which meant that GB, thanks to their per­fect pre-fi­nal record, were crowned world cham­pi­ons.

World Cup victories, es­pe­cially on for­eign soil, are a rar­ity, yet as Oddy points out, upon their re­turn to Blighty, “The squad was not met with scores of press mem­bers clam­our­ing for in­ter­views, or re­quests for en­dorse­ments and spon­sor­ships.”

This, he claims, is be­cause even to­day rugby league is “only given na­tional at­ten­tion be­grudg­ingly,” an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion, though the au­thor later of­fers sev­eral rea­sons why Sul­li­van and his men may not have re­ceived due credit for their vic­tory.

Sul­li­van was born in Splott, a re­spectable work­ing class area of Cardiff, sim­i­lar in de­mo­graphic make-up to that of many north­ern towns and cities where he would even­tu­ally make his liv­ing, not as though the 13-man ver­sion of rugby was read­ily em­braced deep in the heart of 15-man ter­ri­tory.

Oddy weaves an en­gag­ing his­tory of rugby league with that of Sul­li­van’s re­mark­able sport­ing ca­reer, dove­tail­ing th­ese two strands of his tale with bi­og­ra­phy and in­ter­views. He is right to sug­gest that “Sul­li­van’s ca­reer is a mi­cro­cosm of rugby league.”

Sul­li­van’s play­ing record (he rep­re­sented both Hull teams and scored more than 300 tries) more than jus­ti­fies this en­joy­able mix of bi­og­ra­phy and so­cial ob­ser­va­tion. He died, aged just 42, in 1985, a sport­ing great who never re­ceived any­where near the level of recog­ni­tion he de­served.

We’ve teamed up with www. sports­bookofthe­ and have a copy of True Pro­fes­sional to give away. To win, visit www. sports­bookofthe­ and an­swer the fol­low­ing ques­tion:

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