By Pat Benatmane
When I look back at the couple of thousand players who’ve graced Hunslet’s colours, I’m often struck by their names.
It’s the names which trip off the tongue which stick in the mind – Tommy Tootles from the 1920s has a real ring to it. And what about Obadiah Errington? Or Tabua Cakacaka? Or Marcus Vassilakopolous? – names which would make good tongue twisters. Then there’s the 2 Kenyans from the early 1990s – Eric Kibe and Bramwell Mwololo. Maybe Bramwell’s mam was a Bronte fan and used Charlotte’s brother’s name as a tribute. Wonder if she knew that Bramwell Bronte was a druggy who drank himself to an early death? Probably best not to tell her. Other exotic names which conjure fabulous places are Kuku Benioni and Bak Diabira.
Some of the player nicknames are in also our records. Alf ‘Ginger’ Burnell from the 1940s is an obvious one, as is Abraham ‘Butch’ Fatnowna (1999). Graham ‘Grabsy’ Wilson (1961) apparently had shocking eyesight, so you could imagine his style of catching. What about David ‘Cement’ Gillespie (1987)? Was he like a brick wall, or did he stick to you like wet cement? Then there’s Dennis ‘Tango’ Tate (1953). Tango, the orange fizzy drink, wasn’t around then – it was all Dandelion and Burdock or pink Cherryade, so nothing to do with the modern drink. Do you remember Craig ‘Batman’ Ibbetson from the 2000s? Les ‘Juicy’ Adams and Alan ‘Moose’ Preece – how did they get their nicknames? Joe ‘Mucker’ Wraith is a bit easier to guess, but Arthur ‘Peg’ Newton back in 1914 was a bit odd. I just think of a one-legged player running in circles – can’t be right. Mustn’t forget Frank ‘Dolly’ Dawson.
Other players’ names remind me of more prosaic things. For example, if it’s drinks you’re after, we’ve had two Johnny Walkers and a Sam Smith. For politicians, we’ve had a Harold Wilson, and the actor famed for Harry Potter, Daniel Ratcliffe, played for us, hopefully casting his spell on the opposition. Norman Foster, the American architect, ran on to the Parkside pitch in 1941 and probably condemned the Pavilion as unsafe. For entertainment, we’ve had Tom Jones and Bill Bailey sing sweetly and Michael Jackson was with us strutting his stuff in 1987.
So what about today’s players? At Whitehaven, there’s a couple of interesting names. Geronimo Doyle presumably is named after one of the great First Nation warrior leaders of the Apache. Then there’s Nikau Williams, whose name makes me think of Tawera Nikau, the Maori who played for Castleford. When Tawera returned to New Zealand, he had a motorbike accident and had his left leg amputated, but he still inspired people, becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to rugby league and the community. Another name from the Championship which sounds great is Ebon Scurr – sounds like he’s as tough and rugged as a cliff face or as abrasive as a Brillo pad, don’t you think? I have to mention a Hunslet Warrior with a great, tough -sounding name too and that’s Tyler Dargan – hints of Darth Vader with a touch of gargantuan!
Finally, there’s a player for Gold Coast Titans who has grabbed everybody else’s vowels – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Glad I’m not commentating when he scores a try.
*Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet – basically, Juliet is saying that you could call Romeo Mr Dog Poo and he would still be drop-dead gorgeous.