Obituary: Asuquo Ema – The popular prop who was a stalwart of Hull KR’s glory days

ASUQUO EMA (July 1963 – 3 July 2022)

Asuquo ‘Zook’ Ema was a popular, strong and mobile prop who served Hull KR with distinction for nine seasons and was a key player in their eighties glory period under Roger Millward.

Born in Beverley to Nigerian and English parents in July 1963, he has died aged 58 after a fight with cancer. In November 2021, Rovers announced he had been diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.

Ema featured in two title-winning campaigns with Rovers, in 1983/84 (albeit briefly) and 1984/85, and among his seven finals were two memorable and crowd-pulling meetings with Hull and one at Wembley.

After spending his early years in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war, he returned to England with his mother following the death of his father, and played both Rugby League and union as a child.

Ema joined Rovers Colts from Hull Boys Club, and progressed through the ‘A’ team to make his senior debut on the opening day of 1983/84, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in his second game.

That meant he had a watching brief as Millward’s men won the Championship by a point from Hull, before then beating Castleford in the Premiership Final.

But Ema came into his own in the following campaign, playing in 41 out of 46 matches as Rovers enjoyed a fine season.

By the time they clinched a second successive title, this time by three points from St Helens, Millward’s side, including Ema, had played Hull in two finals at the city’s Boothferry Park football ground, losing 29-12 in front of 25,237 in the Yorkshire Cup before beating their arch-rivals 12-0 before 25,326 on an icy surface in the John Player Special Trophy.

Rovers also reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals and the Premiership final, going down to St Helens.

In 1985/86, Castleford were beaten 22-18 in the Yorkshire Cup final at Headingley before a repeat meeting in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, where Castleford edged it 15-14.

In between, Rovers were beaten 11-8 by Wigan in the John Player Special Trophy final at Elland Road.

Ema remained a regular member of a declining side, featuring in Rovers’ last match at their old Craven Park home at the end of the 1988/89 relegation season.

He made 26 appearances in 1989/90, when an immediate return to the top flight was gained as second-tier champions before a 30-29 defeat by Oldham in the divisional Premiership final at Old Trafford.

Ema, who worked in the fire service, retired at the end of the 1991/92 season, having played 233 games for Rovers, scoring 18 tries.

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