Rugby league and union’s link to cricket

The link between rugby union, rugby league and cricket has never been more evidenced than the relationship enjoyed by Liam Botham and Jeff Wilson across each rugby code and the gentlemen’s game.

Liam Botham

The son of former England captain and cricket personality Ian Botham, Liam relished a promising start to first-class cricket with five wickets on debut for Hampshire against Middlesex. His telling haul of five for 67 included the key dismissal of former England captain Mike Gatting. The Middlesex XI also featured other international cricketers.

Botham junior added two more first-class fixtures, but that’s where a burgeoning career in professional cricket ended, as a love for rugby took precedent.

His rugby union exploits included stints with West Hartlepool, Cardiff and Newcastle. Rugby league endeavours then took over via contracts with the Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Wigan Warriors. 

He retired due to injury in 2005. While the Broncos and Bulls have since exited, the Warriors and Rhinos remain among the Super League markets for the betting providers in the UK. Betfair, for example, might have the Rhinos as favourites over the Warriors, for the resumption of the Super League, while bet365 and Paddy Power could offer Warriors as short-odds favourites over the Rhinos.

“I had a neck injury last season and needed six to eight weeks rest with that. A final knock made the pain worse, I went to have a scan and have seen a neuro-specialist and he said give it a rest. The problem is it may come back and you have to way the options up, it could be worse. I have children to think about and I have put myself first for once. I have had 12 great years in sport, through cricket, rugby union and then league. I wish I had come to rugby league earlier,” he said at the time.

Jeff Wilson

Wilson played 60 Tests for the All Blacks between 1993 and 2001. His rugby union career was lined with 19, 14 and 11 appearances in the Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup and Rugby World Cup, respectively.

“The Bledisloe Cup is one of rugby’s great rivalries. Before the Rugby World Cup, it was our most important trophy, especially in the absence of our older traditional rival South Africa. It was the pinnacle of every All Blacks player’s season, and all of New Zealand watched with both excitement and trepidation as the mood of the nation balanced on the result,” Wilson wrote for ESPN.

On occasion, he exchanged tries and tackles for runs and wickets during six ODIs and one T20I for the Black Caps in international cricket. His best performance with the bat came against Australia at Seddon Park in Hamilton in 1993, when 44 not out from just 28 deliveries carried the New Zealanders to victory. Wilson bowled some handy right-arm seam, too, and accounted for the wickets of Australians David Boon and Shane Warne during an ODI at the Basin Reserve in Wellington – also in 1993.

Courtney Hill

The 33-year-old Hill played rugby league for the Leeds Rhinos in the Women’s Super League and the Brisbane Heat in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League. A multi-talented sportswomen, Hill’s cross-code prowess was also epitomised by cricket with Queensland and more rugby league with the Sydney Roosters.

“To be involved in that was something I’m immensely proud of. Women’s cricket just couldn’t get the momentum going until they aligned the teams with the Big Bash franchises. But just as it was all taking off, I had a couple of crappy injuries that halted everything,” she was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“I see young girls now dreaming of becoming rugby league players and I want to help them all play professionally someday. I’m just a girl from the bush who’s captaining Leeds. Some days, you take a step back and think that’s pretty cool. If I can help inspire the next generation too, well, that’s job done for me.”

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