REVIEW: From Hull to Hell and back, by Lee Crooks and Vince Groak

Neil Barraclough

For sheer warts-and-all honesty, From Hull to Hell and back is up there with Sean Long’s autobiography.

Lee Crooks recently told Rugby League Books how his autobiography had been three years in the making.

It has been time well spent, because the final product is something that Crooks and ghostwriter Vince Groak can both look upon with pride.

At nearly 350 pages, it’s certainly one of the longer rugby league books of recent years. But Groak has put plenty of effort and craft into creating a story that is easy to read, meaning pages get turned extremely quickly.

That the book rattles along at such a pace, without ever leaving the reader feeling short-changed, is partly down to the skill of Groak. But the tales Crooks recounts are just as important, and it is hard not to become even more absorbed in the book with every chapter that passes.

It is at times as heartfelt as it is revealing, with Crooks holding nothing back about the breakdown of his first marriage, his spells at Hull, Leeds and Castleford, and his journey after playing when he describes himself as being an ex-player with “two dodgy knees and struggling to find a way back into the sport he loves.”

I have had many years to think about why it went wrong for me at Leeds. For a long time I just blamed myself. I didn’t want to go to Leeds, I took the rejection from Hull badly and I sulked for far too long and far too publicly. I felt that I let some good people down and the way I behaved hurt lots of people close to me. More than anything, I damaged myself, my career and my reputation. But I also think that the Leeds club had a lot to be responsible for as well. The attitude of the club at the time was unbelievably arrogant.

After Crooks finished playing he had spells as coach at York and Keighley, as well as a seven-year stint working for the RFL. But it is a decision in 1998 to turn down an approach from Sky Sports that he lists as one of his two biggest regrets.

There are plenty of laughs as well, with Crooks vividly recalling one particular boozy session in the Balmain Leagues Club in 1987.

I found myself nodding off on the steps outside, waiting for a taxi to take me home. A couple of supporters were stood near my and I could hear them talking.
“Isn’t that Lee Crooks over there, on the floor?”
“Nah, mate, that guy’s fucking pissed. That’s not Lee Crooks.”
I opened one eye and lifted my head. “Oh yes it fucking is,” I said, before drifting off to sleep.

Well worth a read, regardless of which club you support.

From Hull to Hell and back, by Lee Crooks and Vince Groak, is out now. ISBN 978-0956252685, published by Scratching Shed Publications. Buy now and save on the cover price.