Kirk Yeaman: 'I've played at Wembley, but nothing beats running out for Hull FC at a packed KC Stadium'
The KC Stadium is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Hull FC's Kirk Yeaman tells James Smailes about his favourite moments at the 'special' ground ...
IN the bowels of a half-built stadium a 17-year-old with big ambitions takes a look around and affords himself a thought of what might be.
On the verge of becoming a first-team player at Hull FC, Kirk Yeaman's immediate focus is on forcing his way into Shaun McRae's side.
Boulevard glory remains the first goal, but as the new building rises from the ground, so Yeaman's dreams of lighting up the new stadium rise with it.
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Fast forward 10 years and Yeaman is also celebrating a 10-year anniversary, with the highlight of his testimonial celebration being a game on the now hallowed turf of the KC.
In the intervening years no player has played more times or scored more tries at the KC Stadium, with Yeaman's place in the folklore of the building assured.
When the facts are put to him, the pride at the statistics brings a smile to his face and it becomes abundantly clear what the KC means to the 29-year-old.
"To have scored 65 tries at the KC is something I could only have dreamed of and each try I score there is special," explains Yeaman with a real sense of pride.
"I've been so privileged in my career to have played in Australia, to have played at Wembley, the Millennium Stadium, but nothing beats the feeling of running out at a packed KC Stadium against Hull KR on a Good Friday.
"It was the game you dreamed of playing as a kid and to get to do it at such a great venue, the best in rugby league, it is always a special occasion and something that gives you a lot of pride."
Yeaman made his first appearance at the KC at the start of the 2003 season and having missed out on the opening game against Halifax, he came off the bench in the stadium's second-ever rugby match against Widnes.
A fringe player who had started to get noticed at the back end of 2002, the KC Stadium's first year would coincide with Yeaman's breakthrough season.
It's a time he remembers fondly. "The players were buzzing when we heard about moving to a new stadium," adds Yeaman.
"We enjoyed playing at the Boulevard, but we all knew what a new stadium meant and we used to watch it going up with real excitement.
"Playing in front of bigger crowds at the KC didn't bring a louder noise, but having so many people come along to watch us made it more special for the players."
Ask Yeaman to pick a highlight of his 10 years of success at the KC and he'd be forgiven for stalling on an answer.
From the great cup triumph over Bradford in 2005, to a victory against the Bulls in 2006 to reach the Grand Final, to an international appearance at the KC, Yeaman is not short of options.
But, with little hesitation, it is clear what his favourite memory is.
"The game that always sticks in my mind is the 2008 derby match," says Yeaman.
"The derby games are always something special and have the best atmospheres. They're not so good when you lose, but in 2008 we had my favourite derby at the KC."
For the record, Hull beat Rovers 44-18 for the club's biggest ever derby win, a record derby score and the most points scored in a derby game.
"The records were great, but it was just a fantastic game to be involved in," says Yeaman.
"The first 20 minutes it was try after try and after the first quarter there was no sign of what was to come. Then as the game wore on we stepped on the gas and pulled away from them, scoring some great tries.
"I was lucky enough to get two tries that day, but nobody but me will probably remember them. All anyone remembers, and rightly so, was Tom Briscoe's incredible length of the field try.
"In 10 years, it is probably the best try ever scored at the KC Stadium. It was a special game for a special stadium.
"Having all the records is great, but it is still such an honour to be able to go out every other week and play at such a wonderful stadium."
• Read lots more KC Stadium memories in a special pull-out inside today's Mail. Contributors include Nick Barmby, Stuart Elliott, John Kear and Shaun McRae.