Clive A. Sullivan MBE (born 9 April 1943 in Cardiff, died 8 October 1985 in Hull) was a Welsh rugby league player. A Great Britain and Wales international winger, he played with both Hull F.C. and Hull Kingston Rovers in his career, and also for Oldham and Doncaster. Captaining Great Britain in 1972, he was the first black captain of any British national sporting side. He was part of the Great Britain team which won the 1972 Rugby League World Cup. His son, Anthony Sullivan, had a successful career with Hull Kingston Rovers, St Helens, Wales in both rugby league and union, and Cardiff RFC.
Whilst growing up in the Splott district of Cardiff as a young teenager, he required operations on his knees, feet and shoulders. Due to the extent of these operations, a rugby career seemed unlikely. In 1961 he joined the army after leaving school and working for a while as a motor mechanic. He was posted to Catterick in North Yorkshire and while there was picked for an inter-corps rugby match on account of being Welsh. Sullivan chose to play in the match as admitting to having a major injury would have led to being invalided out of the army. His plan was to deliberately play badly to avoid being picked again. However, instinct took over and after scoring a long distance try with no ill effects, he decided to make the most of the army training to further progress his hopes of playing rugby.
After an unsuccessful trial game at Bradford Northern at the age of 17 he was approached by the touch judge from the game and offered a trial at Hull. His trial at Hull was a different story, dubbed Mr. X by the Hull Daily Mail he scored three tries and signed as a professional the following day.
Sullivan's first three seasons were restricted by army duties, three knee operations, and a nearly fatal car crash in October 1963 although he returned to play again just three months later. He left the army after a spell in Cyprus in 1964. Free of his army commitments he returned to Hull in time to play the last game of the season.
Rugby league club Hull had different ideas about Sullivan and gave the young man, who boasted phenomenal speed, a chance to play rugby league. In his début for Hull, Sullivan had an outstanding game and gained the support of the Hull club and city. Sullivan became known for his exceptional speed. His upper-body was deceptively strong which gave him excellent cover defence. Despite his knees which haunted his childhood requiring constant attention and further operations, he played a total of 352 games for Hull, scoring 250 tries. In his 213 games for Hull Kingston Rovers he scored 118 tries.
Sullivan played Right-Wing, i.e. number 2, and scored a try in Hull's 12–9 victory over Featherstone Rovers in the 1969 Yorkshire Cup final during the 1969–70 season at Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Saturday 20 September 1969, played Right-Wing (replaced by Interchange/Substitute Gerald Dunn) in Hull Kingston Rovers' 15–11 victory over Hull Kingston Rovers in the 1974 Yorkshire Cup final during the 1974–75 season at Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Saturday 26 October 1974, and played Left-Wing, i.e. number 5, and scored a try in the 11–15 defeat by Leeds in the 1975 Yorkshire Cup final during the 1975–76 season at Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Saturday 15 November 1975.
His international career took him to great heights having made his début for Great Britain in 1967. The following year he played three World Cup matches, grabbing a hat-trick against New Zealand. In 1969, he toured Australasia, but only participated in one game due to injury. He however won a further three test caps against New Zealand in 1971. In 1972 he was handed the captaincy of Great Britain and played two tests against France. The World Cup took place that same year, and he captained Great Britain to become world champions. He scored a try in each of Great Britain's four games. Sullivan scored possibly the most famous try in the history of the World Cup to level 10–10 against Australia in the final, after a length of the field run.
In 1973 his Great Britain career came to an end with three tests against Australia. He was captain-coach of Hull FC from 1973 to 74.,
The 1975 Rugby League World Cup saw Sullivan lead Wales in all four matches, scoring a try in the defeat of England in the second game for the Welsh team. Wales finished third in the five-team World Cup.
Sullivan played Left-Wing, i.e. number 5, in Hull Kingston Rovers' 10-5 victory over Hull in the 1980 Challenge Cup Final during the 1979–80 season at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 3 May 1980, in front of a crowd of 95,000
Sullivan played Left-Wing, i.e. number 5, and scored a try in Hull Kingston Rovers' 26–11 victory over St. Helens in the 1977 BBC2 Floodlit Trophy final during the 1977–78 season at Craven Park, Hull on Tuesday 13 December 1977, and played Left-Wing in the 3–13 defeat by Hull in the 1979 BBC2 Floodlit Trophy final during the 1979–80 season at The Boulevard, Hull on Tuesday 18 December 1979.
Sullivan was unexpectedly called back into the Hull team in 1982 after a period on the coaching staff, at the age of 39, he played Right-Wing, i.e. number 2 (Dane O'Hara having played in the first match) in Hull's 18–9 victory over Widnes in the 1982 Challenge Cup final replay during the 1981–82 season at Elland Road, Leeds on Wednesday 19 May 1982, in front of a crowd of 41,171.
In all, Sullivan represented Great Britain 17 times and appeared at three World Cups, 1968 and 1972 with Great Britain and in 1975 for Wales.
Posthumous recognition in Hull
When Sullivan died of cancer in 1985 aged just 42, the city of Hull held him in such high regard that a section of the city's main approach road (the A63) between the Humber Bridge and the city centre was renamed Clive Sullivan Way in his honour. Since 2001, the Clive Sullivan Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Rugby League Local Derby match between Hull F.C. and Hull Kingston Rovers in recognition of his service to both local clubs.
Sullivan still holds two records for Hull which are: Most tries in a career (250) and most tries in a match (7) against Doncaster on 15 April 1968, and is one of fewer than twenty-five Welshmen to have scored more than 1000-points in their rugby league career.