Tributes to Hull FC great Bill Drake
HULL FC great Bill Drake would have been a Super League superstar had he played today says Black and Whites legend Johnny Whiteley.
The ex-Hull player and Great Britain coach has today paid tribute to his former team-mate, who passed away after losing his battle with cancer aged 82.
Drake, alongside his brother Jim, who by coincidence died on the same date four years earlier, were part of the legendary front six that starred for Hull during the 1950s and early 1960s.
A winger turned fearsome second-row, Drake and his twin brother Jim were born in Workington but the family moved to York when the 'terrible twins' were 14. Spotted playing for Heworth, he arrived at Hull in 1952, making his debut a year later at the start of a stellar 10-year career at the Boulevard.
"I played alongside Bill throughout his whole Hull career and he was nothing short of sensational," explained Whiteley.
"Quite often you hear how players from the olden days wouldn't be able to cut it in the modern day version of the game, but Bill would.
"I have no doubt Bill would be sensational in Super League. He was six feet two inches, he was well built, he had great light hands and a tremendous pass and he could run like nothing else, he had so much speed.
"He was a bit naughty and had a bit of a bad reputation with other teams, but he was tremendous for us over 10 years. We were all great friends, a tight unit and he played a big part in that pack."
Hull's feared pack of the 1950s is still revered to this day, boasting Whiteley, the Drake twins, Mick Scott, Tommy Harris and Harry Markham, later to be replaced by Cyril Sykes.
It could have been much different, however, after Drake arrived at Hull as a promising winger.
The man who played 294 times for Hull, with 101 tries, 53 goals and 409 points, almost didn't make it into the first team and in a remote way had Whiteley to thank for his chance.
"Jim arrived at Hull as a full-back, Bill a winger," added Whiteley. "Bill wasn't very good on the wing but Roy Francis our coach saw something in him.
"I remember we had a game at Barrow and I was in the Territorial Army at the time and had to meet the team there. I was late arriving and missed the start so Jim was moved to loose-forward.
"He did so well he stayed in the pack and a couple of weeks later when we needed cover at second row Bill was given a chance. He never looked back.
"We had a great pack and a set of lads all dedicated to Hull with every one of us receiving a benefit game for 10 years service. Bill was as tough as they come, but a great guy and a player that will be fondly remembered."