DECEMBER - A GREAT MONTH FOR FC'S HALL OF FAME

The 24-day period November 30th to 23rd December has, over the years, seen no less than six members of the Hull FC Hall of Fame make their first-team debuts in the famous Black and White irregular hoops.

It seems hard to believe that it is 35 years since Lee Crooks was selected to appear in Hull's back-row for the first time on November 30th 1980 in a Slalom Lager Championship game at home against Salford.

Crooks was signed into Hull's Colts system from Ainthorpe Youth Club and had captained the young Airlie Birds to Colts Cup victory over Castleford, winning the Man of the Match award in the process.

Although just failing to make it a Cup-Premiership ‘Double', the Hull Colts team was highly regarded as one of the best that particular system produced.

Crooks played for the Great Britain Colts in their two fixtures with France in that season. Indeed, he was eligible for Colts selection for several years to come!

At the time Hull's youngest-ever player, Crooks went on to make just five senior appearances in that first campaign but his impact during the following 1981-82 season was immense.

He played in 42 of the 45 fixtures and collected winners medals in the Challenge Cup and John Player Trophy. Although selected on the bench for the drawn Wembley Final, Crooks came into the side for the replay at Elland Road and rounded off Hull's try scoring that glorious night with a memorable celebration behind the posts as well as contributing three successful goal kicks to Hull's tally.

More honours came his way in 1982-83. Following a barnstorming display against unbeaten Leeds at The Boulevard, when he chalked up a hat-trick of tries and seven goals.

He became Great Britain's youngest forward when gaining selection for the first Ashes Test at Boothferry Park – the first of 19 Test caps, 13 of them as a Hull player, in addition to solitary England and Yorkshire appearances.

The might of that great Australian pack of forwards held no fears for Crooks who stood toe to toe with Les Boyd et al and did the same for Hull when narrowly failing to lower the ‘Invincible' Kangaroo colours at The Boulevard.

Hull lost 7-13 after leading 7-0 at the break. Hull went on to claim the Rugby League Championship as well as the Yorkshire Cup, the latter the first of three successes in which Crooks played in all three.

Unfortunately the clean sweep eluded Hull when the Wembley hoodoo struck in the Final against Featherstone and the Premiership Trophy Final was also a damp squib.

However, Crooks' star was still shining brightly and selection for the Great Britain Lions Tour to Australia and New Zealand followed in the summer of 1984.

In fact, Crooks was a tourist in 1988 and 1992 as well, making him one of only three British forwards to tour three times. He also turned out for Wester Suburbs Magpies in 1985 and 1986.

Early in the 1983-84 Season, a young Gary Schofield joined Hull from the Hunslet Parkside Junior Club and although he scored many tries as a result of his own brilliant awareness of the in-play situations, nevertheless, he was also on hand on numerous occasions to take advantage of Crooks' sublime ball-handling and offload skills.

Following the defeat at Wembley in May 1985, the gates at The Boulevard took a downturn and the club faced an uncertain future finance-wise. The decision was taken to sell both Schofield and Crooks to Leeds each for £155,000, in the summer of 1987.

In two and a half seasons, Crooks played 56 games for the Loiners before they recouped their money upon his transfer to Castleford early in 1990.

That led to a new lease of life for Crooks and he had eight and a half happy years at Wheldon Road, where he starred as a prop. He eclipsed his 208 appearances and 947 points for Hull by racking up 222 games and 1265 points for Castleford.

He won a second John Player Trophy with Cas and also collected a further three Yorkshire Cup Winners medals (one with Leeds and two with Castleford).

The Crooks connection carried on at Hull when his son, Ben, turned out for the Airlie Birds from 2012 to 2014.

In fact, the pair hold a remarkable family record by playing in the club's two record away victories – Lee in 1985 at Workington (eight first half goals in a 64-18 result) and Ben in 2012 at Bradford (one try in a 70-6 win). 

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