Kevin and Bob Beardmore
By RICHARD de la RIVIERE
This feature, part of Richard de la Riviere’s popular ‘Rugby League Heroes’ series, appeared in League Express on 8th April 2019 and we are putting it on our website today following the recent death of Kevin Beardmore.
TWO for the price of one this week as the Beardmore twins, Kevin and Bob, are the latest to feature in this series. Hooker Kevin, the elder brother by ten minutes, scored 80 tries in 247 Castleford games between 1980 and 1991. He also won 14 Great Britain caps.
Scrum-half Bob debuted a few weeks earlier than Kevin in 1979, scoring 99 tries in 293 games for Castleford before enjoying a short spell at Leigh from 1989 to 1991.
RR: As a hooker and scrum-half you had a great on-field understanding. Was that, in part, down to you being twins?
KB: It might sound daft but there was definitely something there. There was some sort of psychic power there. Sometimes, without looking for Bob, I knew he’d be there. We scored a lot of tries off each other that we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.
BB: We’re different people in the way we go about our lives, but when we were younger certain things happened to make you think there was some sort of twin thing going on. On one squad photo, we were the only players who had rolled our cuffs over and we didn’t know the other had done it. On the field, there were natural instincts. I knew when he’d make a break and vice-versa.
RR: Describe each other as players.
BB: Kev was by far the best hooker around. He was the first of the modern-day hookers. Players like Daryl Clark, Keiron Cunningham and James Roby remind me of him. He was so elusive, just like Benny Elias. He was the first to play like that in the 1980s. He was a good striker of the ball as well, which was important then.
KB: I enjoyed playing with Bob. He had all the attributes, especially awareness. Sometimes you get bogged down in your own 20, but his kicking was superb. He was a very good goalkicker too. He talked all the time, which was important for a scrum-half. He definitely should have been capped.
RR: Tell us about your younger days.
KB: We started playing at junior school at the age of about ten. I was scrum-half, Bob was stand-off. Then we went to high school, but it was all rugby union there. We were having a discussion in English one day with a teacher from down south, Mr Ribbons, and he asked why we didn’t play Rugby League. I said we’d love to, but we’d need a teacher who’d be willing to coach us and take us around. He admitted he didn’t know much about League, but he’d be willing to drive us if we coached ourselves. In our first year, we won the Yorkshire Cup, beating St Thomas a Beckett at Wakefield Trinity’s ground. Andy Kelly played against us. The school played Rugby League all the time after that.
BB: We were brought up to play rugby. Our elder brother toughened us up! Joe Westerman, Liam Watts and Rob Burrow all went to Airedale High School as well. We then both played for Fryston, but I only had a season there. I thought I was better at soccer and played for Pontefract Collieries on a Saturday and then rugby on Sunday for Fryston Under-17s. We won the BARLA Trophy and other cups. Barry Johnson, Gary Hyde and I signed for Castleford at the same time a few months after Kev.
RR: What were your early days at Castleford like?
BB: It took Kev a while to get into the first team because Bob Spurr was the regular hooker. I was fortunate, because the main scrum-halves, Gary Stephens and Clive Pickerill, were sold within a year of me signing. I debuted against Workington and was up against Boxer Walker. At the first scrum, he stood on my foot and said, “Welcome to Rugby League, young ‘un!”
KB: I made my debut against York down t’Lane. Bob Spurr was injured, and I got a chance. But he came back in and I had to wait for regular games.
RR: Talk us through the great Castleford players you played with.
KB: When I first signed, Malcolm [Reilly] was still playing. I remember playing at Hull KR and we were short of players. I thought we’d get hammered but Malcolm played himself and made a real difference. I scored a hat-trick and we only just got beaten. Malcolm is a great bloke. He’d only tell you to do something if he could do it himself, like a ten-mile run, and he wanted to do it better than all of us! I still see him doing weights now and he’s nearly 70. John Joyner was brilliant. Barry Johnson started at loose forward and moved to prop. He was very underestimated, one of the best ball-handlers I’ve ever seen.
BB: I agree with those. Barry was exceptional. There’s Kevin Ward as well, an unbelievable player. Bob Lindner and Gary Belcher from Australia were excellent. Tony Marchant was a great player, as was Gary Hyde.
RR: Tell us about your time at Canberra Raiders in 1985, Kevin.
KB: I enjoyed Canberra. I knew it would be hard. You’d play in the second grade, then you’d be on the bench for the first team. My first game was at Eastern Suburbs and I played for the first team. I played a couple of games but tore my ligaments and ended up in plaster. Terry Regan was a nutter, a hard player. Rowan Brennan also played at Wakefield – he was a big hard player. Dean Lance was there. I met him again when he coached Leeds. There were Chris O’Sullivan and Ivan Henjak too. Canberra was a nice place, but it could get very cold.
RR: Castleford won the Challenge Cup in 1986. How did you feel when John Dorahy lined up the kick to win the match for Rovers and when did you discover you’d won the Lance Todd, Bob?
KB: I’d missed most of the season with a shoulder injury. I wasn’t expecting to play at Wembley, but Malcolm told me I was in. Everything went perfectly. The training was great, and we went to the theatre one night. Then I noticed the Liverpool team were in the same hotel and I’m a big fan of theirs. They had to win at Chelsea on the same weekend to win the league. We played cards and pool with them and waved them off on their way to Chelsea. I was off the field when Dorahy lined up the conversion. He was a very good kicker, so we feared the worst. I remember jumping up and down when he missed. The first thing I did after the final hooter was run to a steward to find out the Liverpool score. He told me they’d won the league and I was made up.
BB: I remember Harry Gration interviewing John Joyner, Kev and myself on the pitch. It was nerve-wracking doing that, but when the game started I was fine. A scrum-half is involved all the time so you don’t get nervous. I remember going to retrieve the ball for a late scrum when I heard the announcement I’d won the Lance Todd Trophy. That was a very proud moment. As for the football, I’m a big Everton fan. The News of the World did a big feature on us because Liverpool and Everton were in the FA Cup Final a week later. We had our picture taken in our football kits. We said in the interview we still needed tickets, and we got inundated, so a week after we’d played there, we went back to Wembley as football fans, with Kev at one end of the ground and me in the other!
RR: What was the highlight of your Test career, Kevin?
KB: I remember all the Tests I played in. There were some good trips. I went on two tours. I was a miner and had to get permission from my colliery manager, who was a big rugby union fan from Wales. He was great about it and they still paid me when I was away for three months. Len Casey was initially going to be captain in 1984, but he got sent off in the last club game and got banned from the tour. Brian Noble was made captain, so he was always going to get picked at hooker.
RR: How close to selection did you come, Bob?
BB: It was just one of those things that I didn’t. In 1985 and 1986, I was in the squad. I was good enough but there were so many good scrum-halves around. I was playing out of my skin in 1984 and Frank Myler was coach. Every week a coach would pick their squad in the Rugby Leaguer newspaper and I was in them all, but then not in the one that mattered. Ray Ashton got picked. Frank was the Oldham coach and picked five Oldham players, including Ray. Maurice Bamford was the next coach and promised that Deryck Fox and I would both play at least one Test against New Zealand in 1985. We lost the first, but he kept the same team and then when we won at Wigan, he kept the same for the decider. I was 16th man and that was as close as I got. I did actually play an international in France alongside Ellery Hanley, but it wasn’t a full Test match. I captained Great Britain twice but in warm-up matches – once against a combined Hull team and then in Mick Morgan’s testimonial. But I have no regrets. I had a fantastic career.
RR: You finished up at Leigh, Bob. How did that move come about?
BB: We’d won at Wembley, but we were getting older and Daryl van de Velde, who had taken over from Malcolm, wanted to create his own team. I’d been the number-one scrum-half since 1980, but things weren’t right, so I left in 1989 to join Leigh. I scored four tries on my debut for Leigh against Barrow at the start of the 1989-90 season. We went to Castleford and I played against Kevin. I scored the first try and got the biggest cheer of the day! I chipped over and beat John Joyner into the corner and touched down, but we lost. I got a lovely reception from the Castleford supporters.