No deny­ing Han­ley his right­ful place in pan­theon of greats to grace the game

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - DAVE CRAVEN SPORTS WRITER ■ Email: dave.craven@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port

IT IS 30 years ago that Ellery Han­ley – one of the great­est-ever rugby league play­ers – be­came the first British win­ner of the pres­ti­gious Golden Boot.

When the Wi­gan and Great Bri­tain star re­ceived recog­ni­tion as the world’s best player in 1988, the award was ac­tu­ally still in its in­fancy, yet had al­ready seen some leg­endary names adorn it.

Wally Lewis was its in­au­gu­ral re­cip­i­ent for his ex­ploits in 1984 when the iconic stand-off led Aus­tralia and Queens­land State of Ori­gin to glory but also mem­o­rably had his fa­mous spell with Wake­field Trin­ity.

Then came an­other bril­liant Kan­ga­roos No6 Brett Kenny (1985), Bal­main Tigers full-back Garry Jack (1986) and New Zea­land back-row Hugh McGa­han and Aus­tralia scrum-half Peter Ster­ling, who shared it in 1987.

How­ever, there was no deny­ing York­shire­man Han­ley’s place in the pan­theon in 1988.

The Great Bri­tain cap­tain had al­ready twice won the Man of Steel as the British game’s finest player, first in 1985, with Brad­ford North­ern where he had emerged as a pro­lific cen­tre.

Two years later, he did so again hav­ing scored a stag­ger­ing 63 tries in his sec­ond sea­son at Wi­gan fol­low­ing a £150,000 move from Od­sal. It was a wise in­vest­ment; that record haul helped see the Cherry and Whites win their first league ti­tle since 1960.

Leeds-born Han­ley, just as dynamic at stand-off, even­tu­ally es­tab­lished him­self as a No 13 with Wi­gan and GB although, ironi- cally, 1987-1988 started out tur­bu­lently; Han­ley fell out with his club, lost the cap­taincy, was dropped from the team and even trans­fer-listed.

Still, ul­ti­mately, he was go­ing nowhere; Han­ley was re­called for the Chal­lenge Cup semi-fi­nal and scored a fa­mous try as they then lifted the tro­phy, start­ing that re­mark­able record run of eight suc­ces­sive Wem­b­ley tri­umphs.

Han­ley was then named Lions cap­tain as they headed off on tour and, although it ended in a se­ries de­feat against Aus­tralia, he fa­mously led them to their first win over them in 10 years when they clinched the third Test in Syd­ney.

Af­ter a brief tour of New Zea­land, Han­ley re­turned to Syd­ney to star as a ‘guest’ im­port for Bal­main along­side the afore­men­tioned Jack. He was only there eight weeks but be­came an in­stant fans’ favourite – (some feat for any Pom’) and was in­spi­ra­tional help­ing un­fan­cied Tigers sud­denly reached a Grand Fi­nal.

It was there, though, where ‘The Black Pearl’ was in­volved in one of the show­piece’s most in­fa­mous in­ci­dents ever.

Hit with a hor­ren­dously late, high shot by Can­ter­bury’s Terry Lamb af­ter around half-an-hour, dazed Han­ley had to leave the field. The cyn­i­cal foul went un­no­ticed but Bal­main’s main threat was off and they lost 24-12.

Only three British play­ers have won the Golden Boot since: Garry Schofield (1990), Kevin Sinfield (2014) – both while play­ing for Leeds – and an­other Wi­gan and Great Bri­tain loose for­ward in the shape of Andy Far­rell (2004).

The 2018 Golden Boot win­ner will be an­nounced at El­land Road, Leeds on Wed­nes­day. KING OF THE WORLD:

Ellery Han­ley poses with his ‘golden boot’ award which he was re­cip­i­ent of back in 1988. In­set, Aus­tralian half-back An­drew Johns won the award in 2001.

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