Saturday Interview – Challenge Cup: Lockwood looks back to ‘the crying game’

NOW AND THEN: Brian Lockwood with a replica of the Lance Todd Trophy he won the as man of the match in the 1980 Challenge Cup final and, below, lifting the Cup at Wembley with Roger Millward and Clive Sullivan to his left. Main picture: Scott Merrylees SM1009/29d
NOW AND THEN: Brian Lockwood with a replica of the Lance Todd Trophy he won the as man of the match in the 1980 Challenge Cup final and, below, lifting the Cup at Wembley with Roger Millward and Clive Sullivan to his left. Main picture: Scott Merrylees SM1009/29d
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FOR someone with such an illustrious record in the Challenge Cup, you would think Brian Lockwood’s favourite memory would be at Wembley.

After all, he went there four times in the prestigious competition and won on each occasion, twice with home-town Castleford in 1969 and 1970, and again most famously perhaps as Hull KR defeated Hull in the 1980 showpiece and once more the following year, ironically against Rovers, in Widnes colours.

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Indeed, the former England captain is one of just two players in its 118-year history to lift the famous trophy with three different clubs.

The other is Alex Murphy who, this morning, will be immortalised forever at Wembley when a bronzed statue incorporating him and fellow legends Billy Boston, Eric Ashton, Martin Offiah and Gus Risman will be unveiled before the final between KR and Leeds Rhinos.

However, despite such vast Wembley experience, Lockwood’s most priceless memory is actually from the 1980 semi-final victory over Halifax.

“After the game I was sat in the dressing room and I’ll never forget the sight,” recalled the fearless prop, in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post.

“In front of me was Clive Sullivan and Roger Millward.

“They were cuddling each other – and literally crying. That was one of the best sensations I’ve ever had anywhere seeing those two embracing like that.

“I’d already played in the final twice before but they’d never done so until this point.

“Don’t forget, in those days, playing at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final was what every player dreamed of doing so to see such great players like Clive and Roger finally getting to do so was just smashing. And then we went and won it, too.”

Sullivan, the peerless winger who scored 250 tries for Hull but was similarly prolific and adored by fierce rivals Rovers after crossing ‘the river’, was also the last man to captain Great Britain to a World Cup success in 1972, when Lockwood also featured.

Millward is the brilliant stand-off who helped the Lions to the Ashes Down Under in 1970 and played more than 400 games for Rovers. His last was the 1980 Cup glory triumph versus Hull when the player-coach and record try-scorer bravely continued on despite yet another broken jaw, a third in just a few months arriving not long after.

You can understand why Lockwood was so elated to see the veteran duo – his cousin Millward aged 32, Sullivan 37 – fulfil this particular dream 35 years ago.

The 1980 final, a 95,000 sell-out as the entire city of Hull seemed to descend on the capital, was famous for all sorts of reasons.

However, principally – being the first and still the only time the great rivals had met at Wembley – it is remembered for one particular banner over the A63.

“‘Last one out of Hull please turn out the lights’,” recalls Lockwood, 68, with no prompting. “I didn’t see it but I remember someone telling us at the reception about the ‘big sign’.

“That’s just typical Hull humour. Brilliant supporters.

“There was loads of funny stories that weekend, though. Our bus went missing at one point. Apparently a few of the lads took it for a ride.

“Our hotel was like Fawlty Towers with lots of staff who could hardly speak English.

“One of the waiters said to my wife “do you want f***ing chips”

“She couldn’t believe it but I told her, they’d been dealing with Lowey (Phil Lowe), Roger (Millward) and Len Casey all week so that’s what they thought chips were called! Roger was crawling under the table at one point.

“Our physio, Cliff Wallace, got scolded with gravy... one waitress slipped on a piece of beef fat and took out an entire table.”

Rovers won the game 10-5 but it was a far from classic showing.

Lockwood insisted: “No-one expected it to be a spectacular game. In fact, all five times I have been down there it has never been spectacular. I was lucky, though, in that I never lost once.

“Admittedly, it was with four different sides – Great Britain, Cas, Widnes and Hull KR – but I always had good players around me and that was true that day with Kingston Rovers.”

Today, much of the build-up has been centred on whether Albert Kelly, Hull KR’s livewire Australian scrum-half, will be fit to play against huge favourites Leeds, having been out for four weeks with a knee injury. Lockwood expects to see him.

“When I’d been there with Cas I’d not played for the fortnight before as I’d smashed my hand and had that all pinned,” he remembered.

“For us in 1980, Phil Lowe had problems with his shoulder but so did Paul Rose, too. He wasn’t good either and they were having injections to get right for it.

“When I was with Widnes, Andy Gregory was off to the dentists in the early hours of the morning to have a wisdom tooth pulled out.

“He’d had toothache for four days so (coach) Dougie Laughton had gone ballistic at him for not sorting it earlier. There’s always little stories like that around.”

Lockwood remembers the homecomings well.

“It was brilliant with Cas as it was the first time they’d won it since 1935,” he said.

“I reckon there was about 100,000 people on the streets that day as we came through the town on an open-top bus.

“But that reception from Kingston Rovers fans equalled that at least. It was incredible.

“The Hull people are absolutely fabulous.”

That win remains to this day Hull KR’s only success in the Challenge Cup.

Lockwood won the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match, for his significant involvement in defence but also attack when his subtle, delayed pass, for example, sent winger Steve Hubbard racing clear for the game’s opening try.

He said: “It was an unbelievable moment for me.

“It was funny as my dad never praised me in my career. I used to call in on my way home after Cas games and my mam would say ‘everything all right love?’ and I’d be ‘yeah mam, fine.’

“But my dad... I’d have won man of the match, made God knows how many tackles, scored a try and I’d walk in and he’d say I’d taken my eyes off a pass or something.

“After Wembley, I gave me mam a cuddle and she was telling me all about the day – meeting Cannon and Ball, taking the kids into the dressing room and how, when the announcer said ‘Lance Todd Trophy winner… Brian Lockwood’ she said my dad started crying.

“My dad was sat next to her when she was telling me this. He jumped up, looked at her with a look that could kill and then said: ‘I didn’t!’ Then he ran off! That’s all I needed to know. He didn’t have to say he was proud.”

The Brian Lockwood story ...

Born: October 8, 1946, Castleford

1965: Makes Castleford debut

1969: Features in Castleford’s Challenge Cup final victory

1970: Repeats Wembley feat with Castleford and makes England debut

1972: Plays in the victorious Great Britain side as they lift the World Cup in Lyon, France

1974: Makes first move to Australia and plays for Canterbury-Bankstown in Grand Final

1976: Leaves Castleford for Wakefield

1978: Joins Hull KR

1979: Captains England in wins over Wales and France

1980: Wins Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match with Hull KR in Challenge Cup victory over Hull – pictured being presented to the Queen Mother

1981: Having left Rovers, returns to Wembley to defeat former club with Widnes, becoming only the second player to win the Challenge Cup with three different clubs

1983: Retires as a rugby league player

Coaching career: With Wakefield Trinity, Huddersfield and Batley