Hooking role a tough one to call

James Lowes was one of the new breed of hookers

James Lowes was one of the new breed of hookers

James Lowes was one of the new breed of hookers

James Lowes was one of the new breed of hookers

First published in Sport by

No one position has probably changed more than hooker over the years, so picking a No 9 for the Bradford Team of the Century is set to be a lively topic of debate.

The hooker traditionally won possession from the scrum and if he was no good, your team failed.

Now though - with scrums uncompetitive, merely acting as a means to restart the game - hookers are more like an extra half-back, still massively influential but striking and directing play from the ruck.

Pace and handling skills are vital, so which style of hooker wins the vote?

Vic Darlison proves how much those roles have changed. He debuted for Northern in the 1942-43 season and went on to make 249 appearances - including all three Challenge Cup finals later that decade - but scored just one try.

Compare that to James Lowes, a star of the Super League era and Bulls icon, who bagged 99 touchdowns in 238 matches, the majority coming through his trademark dummy-half bust, powering over from close range.

Reliable Norman Haley, meanwhile, hailed from Wyke and was the only player who featured in every game of the 1951-52 table-topping campaign. Yugoslavian Milan Kosanovic arrived in the 1955-56 season and went on to make 143 appearances, giving a first glimpse of the more mobile rake to come.

Tony Fisher was a hardened hooker who toured with club colleagues Jim Mills and Terry Price in 1970 before being transferred to Leeds. He returned though in the 1978-79 season when, alongside his former pack colleague Mills, he played in the victorious Dad's Army' side which beat Australia at Odsal.

John Keith' Bridges came to the club from Featherstone and was one of the last out-and-out ball-getting' hookers. He played a crucial part in the first of the Championship successes in 1979-80.

Enthusiastic Francis Jarvis made his first-team debut in the 1972-73 season and proved to be a great supporting hooker or second row before another Bradfordian came to the fore in 1979 - Brian Noble.

He went on to establish himself as a club legend both as player and coach, making 395 appearances, captaining Northern and then the Lions on their tour of Australasia five years later.

An uncompromising and gifted exponent of the No 9 role, Nobby' would ordinarily have gone down in any fans' all-time XIII.

But then along came Lowes, who, under the guidance of coaches Brian Smith, Matt Elliott and then Noble himself, helped catapult the Bulls into their most successful period ever.

Bizarrely under-rated at Leeds, the former Hunslet scrum half moved to Bradford in 1996, one of the Rhinos' biggest-ever mistakes and possibly the Bulls' best piece of business.

A fiery customer who organised brilliantly and defended with great hunger, Lowes evolved into one of Super League's finest players and someone pivotal to the Bulls' pursuit and ultimate gain of silverware.

It was only the presence of Kieron Cunningham, another quality hooker, that prevented him from winning more than his five Great Britain caps before retiring in 2003.

Others that could come into contention for Bradford over the years include Vincent Dilorenzo, David Dyson, Peter Dunn, Tony Tiger' Handforth, Peter Walker, Peter Astbury, Lewis Cardiss and Glenn Barraclough.

  • You can vote for your top hooker in tomorrow's T&A or via e-mail to dave.craven@bradford.newsquest.co.uk

  • Start or join a debate on this issue in our on-line forum - Click here

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