Tales from Tour: From Afghanistan with the Armed Forces to Fiji with BARLA for Andy Hullock

Drew Darbyshire

As one of two players on tour from the all-conquering Hunslet Club Parkside, Andy Hullock offers both life experience and experience on the field.

At 31, he has seen most things and interestingly enough served in the Armed Forces out in Afghanistan.

“This is my first BARLA tour, but I did tour Canada with the army, and I did a tour of operations to Afghanistan,” Hullock said.

“That was interesting.”

Hullock had the honour of leading the team out as captain for the opening game, with Jamie Fields starting from the bench.

“It was a privilege to be named skipper, but there a lot of leaders in this squad,” Hullock said.

“There are club captains here and we have three vice-captains and Jamie as tour captain. Jamie is the voice of the team. I try to lead a bit more by example rather than words. He is better at that than me.

“We’ve all spoken about the bond that has been created. We had a few drinks in Manchester, then a few of us had a night in Brisbane and went out on the first night here. I’ve made a really close bond with Andy Lea from Thatto Heath, but without the nights out I’d probably not have made a bond with him!

“It showed in the last ten minutes of the first game, the desire and effort to be there for each other.

“I feel we have that mix right and it’s a credit to Gary Hewer, Leigh Paul-Reintoul, Matt Johnson, Bianca Nixon and all the backroom staff. They have not only put things in place, but they have given us a bit of freedom and they haven’t abused it.

“Player welfare has been put ahead of everything.”

Reflecting on that brilliant undefeated domestic season, he admitted that it got tough as teams kept coming.

“At the back end of the year, teams were gunning for us even more,” Hullock continued.

“Credit to all the lads, it wasn’t just the 17, there was a squad of about 22 that got used. It was such a good experience with the boys and we are going to get ourselves ready to go again.”