Six Tackles: Players going back to face their former club

With Leeds legend Danny McGuire making an almost immediate return to take on his former team-mates with Hull KR, we thought we’d look at some of the more interesting player movements and return to face former clubs in the Super League era.

Paul Cooke, Hull FC to Hull KR

It’s one thing leaving a club to join another in normal circumstances, it’s another walking out to go and play for their fiercest rivals. That’s what Paul Cooke did in 2007, frustrated at a knock back for a pay increase at the club he helped win the Challenge Cup two years previous, he walked out and went to sign a three-and-a-half year deal with his boyhood club, Hull KR. The move was initially blocked by the RFL, but eventually went ahead amidst claims that Cooke had never signed his Hull FC deal, and he played for the Robins within a fortnight of his final game for Hull. In the end, Cooke was found guilty of misconduct for approaching another club while under contract elsewhere and copped a ban.

Kevin Brown, Widnes to Warrington

Selling your captain and playmaker is bad enough, but selling him to your traditional derby rivals is even worse. That’s what Widnes fans had to deal with last season when Kevin Brown moved to Warrington, “to win trophies”. Concussion saved perhaps a more frosty reception when the two sides met in April last year, Warrington winning 19-10 at Widnes with Brown missing. He eventually came face to face with the fans that had previously adored him for four years, during which he had led them to two play-off finishes, in the Challenge Cup a month later. Booed throughout, Brown had the last laugh with a hat-trick of tries to fire the Wolves to a 34-20 win.

Leon Pryce, Bradford to St Helens

One of Super League’s most decorated players made the move from hometown club Bradford to St Helens ahead of the 2006 season. He had opted not to renew his contract at the Bulls with a desire to play regularly at stand-off, though he did win the Harry Sunderland Award for Man of the Match in the 2005 Super League Grand Final playing on the wing. In his first year at Saints, he won the treble – Grand Final, League Leaders shield and Challenge Cup. Incredibly, he would win all of his first 13 games in the redvee, including of course a try-scoring performance in a 38-16 win over Bradford. His departure from the Bulls was compounded by the fact they also lost Jamie Peacock, Lee Radford and Stuart Reardon at the same time, the start of their decline from the top.

Adrian Morley, Leeds to Bradford via Sydney

Big prop Morley flew the flag for English players Down Under during a stellar six-year career in the NRL with Sydney Roosters, where he racked up more than 100 appearances and laid the platform for others like Gareth Ellis, James Graham and Sam Burgess to follow. But, with 149 appearances for Leeds behind him, he would return to Super League on loan to Bradford for a cameo stint in 2005. He played six games for the Bulls, turning out in their Grand Final win over Leeds, which made him the first Englishman to win Premierships in both the NRL and Super League, as well as the Challenge Cup. Rules were changed not long after to stop these cameos occurring, the other notable one being Andrew Johns’ three game stint with Warrington in the same season.

Iestyn Harris, Warrington to Leeds to Bradford

Every move dual-code international Iestyn Harris made in his career came with a major talking point and usually a lot of money involved. His first move saw him leave Warrington, after scoring more than 500 points in 92 appearances, to Leeds for £300,000 – but only after being suspended by the Wolves after claims he was seen playing football despite pulling out of a game due to injury. He would leave Leeds to go and play rugby union for Wales, before making arguably the most controversial move in Super League history, joining Bradford in 2004. Leeds said they had first option on Harris should he return to rugby league and they were proved right in the high court, with the deal costing the Bulls more than half a million pounds. Bradford, with Harris at stand-off, would go on to lose the Grand Final ironically to Leeds in 2004, before gaining revenge the following year.

Mickey Higham, St Helens to Wigan

Depending on how pedantic you are, the recently retired Higham could list Bradford Bulls as one of his former clubs. Because in 2005, St Helens wouldn’t sell him to arch rivals Wigan and so in stepped the Bulls to sign him for £70,000. They then released him to Wigan in exchange for Warriors hooker Terry Newton. In what was a difficult year for Wigan, Higham would start at scrum-half on his return to Knowsley Road, where the Saints romped home 48-10.

Another one to look out for this year – Martyn Ridyard’s return to Leigh with Featherstone.

What former players do you most remember coming back to face your club with somebody else? Let us know in the comments below.

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