Clive Sullivan: Trailblazing Great Britain captain to be honoured at 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Welsh winger Clive Sullivan was the first Black athlete to captain a British national team and skippered Great Britain to glory in the 1972 World Cup; The ‘Sully Ball’ will be used in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions the postponed 2021 tournament

Last Updated: 08/12/21 12:50pm


Former Great Britain captain Clive Sullivan’s name will adorn the official ball of the postponed Rugby league World Cup

Clive Sullivan MBE will be remembered at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup after organisers announced the official ball of the tournament will be named in his honour.

Sullivan, who was the first Black sportsman to captain a British national team, skippered Great Britain to World Cup glory in 1972 and scored an iconic try in the final against Australia.

With the postponed tournament now taking place in what will be 50 years on from that historic success, the Welsh winger’s impact on the sport and wider society will be recognised with the ‘Sully Ball’, which will be used in all 61 matches across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions.

“Clive Sullivan is a true British sporting icon – a pioneer in our sport and the captain of the last British Rugby League World Cup-winning team,” RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton said.

“It is important to celebrate the rich and vibrant heritage that the sport has, and this is a wonderful opportunity to bring to life a key moment from past history.

“What Clive achieved in rugby league is phenomenal and the wider impact he had in sport and society will always be remembered.”

Clive Sullivan: Great Britain’s first black sports team captain

Rugby league legend Clive Sullivan featured in our Hidden Figures online series, running in Black History Month.

Sullivan enjoyed a stellar career of over two decades in the 13-man code after making the switch from rugby union aged 17, in particular starring for Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers and remaining revered by fans on each side of the city’s rugby league divide to this day.

He made his Great Britain debut in 1967 and scored 13 tries in 17 international appearances, as well as helping them to World Cup glory in France as captain. Sadly, however, his life was cut short at the age of 42 after dying of cancer in 1985.

His legacy lives on though and the ball has been designed in conjunction with manufacturers Steeden and the Sullivan family. Indeed, his son Anthony, who also represented Great Britain and was a dual-code Wales international, is delighted to see his father honoured in this way.

For all of the family it will be very special to see him appreciated in this way and for his name to positively impact future generations within the sport.

Clive Sullivan’s son Anthony

“My father would be both honoured and humbled to see his achievements recognised in this manner,” Sullivan, who won both the Super League title and Challenge Cup as a winger with St Helens, said.

“He would, I am sure, take this opportunity to pay tribute to his team-mates and the staff involved in that inspirational World Cup victory.

“For all of the family it will be very special to see him appreciated in this way and for his name to positively impact future generations within the sport.”

Wigan joins RLWC2021 venues as fixtures confirmed

The DW Stadium will host a quarter-final in the revised 2021 Rugby League World Cup schedule in place of Anfield.

The move to honour Sullivan in this manner has been roundly welcomed by his Great Britain team-mate and former Sky Sports pundit Mike Stephenson, who played at hooker in that World Cup-winning team.

“It came down to team spirit and the captaincy of Clive because we bonded very quickly,” Stephenson said, reflecting on Sullivan’s impact on the team in that successful campaign. “Clive was a fantastic team-mate and continues to be a great ambassador for our game.

“Through this initiative, we have the opportunity to educate the next generation of fans on the journey of our sport and the positive role Clive played in its success.”



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