Obituary: Mick Crane – An awesome talent who could have achieved more

MICK CRANE (DoB unknown – 3 July 2022)

Mick Crane endeared himself to supporters of both Hull clubs as well as Leeds, appeared in ten finals, five of them won, and represented Great Britain during his second spell with the Black and Whites, when he made a major contribution to a title triumph.

And the backrower’s achievements, which included two Challenge Cup wins, could have been greater still had his commitment to the game matched his unquestionable ability.

For the man whose handling skills and unpredictability in possession mesmerised a variety of opponents, including in 1982 the supremely talented touring Australians, was as elusive off the pitch as on it.

The cigarette smoker who enjoyed a drink frustrated his coaches by failing to turn up for training and even matches, sometimes staying away for several weeks at a time, and each of his transfers, from Hull to Leeds, then to Hull KR, then back to Hull, was preceded by him going AWOL.

Hull plucked the then centre Crane from the local amateur game in December 1970, a time when finances were tight and success, at least in terms of silverware, scarce.

He made 17 appearances that season as the club finished eighth and went out in round two of the 16-team play-offs.

They finished 19th in 1971/72 and then 25th the season after, with the abandonment of the single-league system leaving them in the new Second Division in 1973/74.

In 1975/76, Hull were fifth, one below the promotion places, and reached the final of the Player’s No6 Trophy, losing 19-13 to Widnes at Leeds, with Crane, by now a backrower, playing loose-forward and scoring two tries, one of them a fine 50-yard interception.

The following campaign, he made 37 appearances and scored twelve tries (after 19 in 36 the season before) as his club claimed promotion as Second Division champions, winning 22 and drawing one of their 26 league games.

Hull were relegated in 1977/78, but after he failed to show up for a game at Wigan, Crane left for long-time admirers Leeds in the December, with £13,000 a then record fee received by the Airlie Birds.

The Loiners made that season’s Challenge Cup final, and Crane played at second row in the 14-12 Wembley win over St Helens.

Another disappearing act cost him the chance of playing in the 1978/79 Premiership final, in which Leeds best Bradford Northern, and he was transferred to Hull KR for £9,000 the following November, after 51 appearances with 14 tries.

In 1980/81, Crane achieved the unusual feat of playing both for a club, and against them, in cup finals in the same season.

Having represented Hull KR at loose-forward in their 8-7 Yorkshire Cup final defeat by Leeds at Huddersfield, he returned to Hull in a £9,000 deal in the January of that season (after 18 outings with four tries for the Robins), and featured at second row, scoring a try, as the Black and Whites were beaten 11-7 by Rovers in the Premiership final at Leeds.

Hull might have lost on that occasion, but good times were around the corner, and Crane was at the heart of them.

In 1981/82, during 41 outings he helped Arthur Bunting’s side lift both the John Player Trophy and Challenge Cup, playing second row in the 12-4 win over Hull KR at Leeds in the former and in the 14-14 Wembley draw with Widnes in the latter. That final was replayed at Leeds, where he came off the bench to replace Steve Norton at loose-forward as Hull won 18-9.

The 1982/83 campaign was special for both Hull and Crane.

He played at loose-forward in the 18-7 Yorkshire Cup final win over Bradford at Leeds, after impressing for Hull in their narrow 13-7 defeat by the touring Australian ‘Invincibles’ at The Boulevard, was selected at number 13 by Great Britain coach Doug Laughton for the third Ashes Test at Leeds, where he again caught the eye against Frank Stanton’s Kangaroos, who won 32-8 to complete a 3-0 series success.

Hull also reached the Challenge Cup final – Crane featured as a substitute in the surprise  14-12 defeat by Featherstone Rovers at Wembley – and won the league title by a four-point margin from Hull KR and Wigan before making the Premiership final at Leeds, which Widnes won 22-10 (Crane again came off the bench for the last of his 40 appearances that season).

He also produced a man-of-the-match performance at loose-forward and scored a try and a field-goal in Hull’s 13-2 win over Castleford in the 1983/84 Yorkshire Cup final in Leeds, but by now, the old problems were resurfacing and his outings were less frequent, although he enjoyed one last hurrah in 1986/87, when he played 18 times.

That took Crane’s overall Hull statistics to 359 games with 98 tries. He is among 30 members of Hull’s Hall of Fame.

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