Written by Callum Walker
Despite hailing from Castleford, Gareth Ellis began his career with the then-named Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, breaking into the first-team in 1999 aged just 18. Over the course of five seasons, Ellis scored 26 tries in 114 appearances and even kicked one goal, establishing himself as one of the most exciting up-and-coming young forwards in Super League.
In fact, the forward impressed so much at Wakefield that he earned a call-up to the Great Britain squad in 2003 and, in doing so, became Trinity’s first international representative in 12 years.
A superb leader and enforcer, Ellis left Wakefield for Leeds Rhinos in 2005 where he won one World Club Challenge and one Super League Grand Final, although he was involved in two other Grand Finals and one Challenge Cup Final which Leeds lost. For the Rhinos, the Castleford-born man registered 27 tries in 121 games and also kicked one goal.
Whilst at Leeds, Ellis developed a reputation for one of the hardest and toughest forwards in the game and it was no surprise that the NRL came calling in 2008 – a year in which he won the Grand Final with Leeds and was included in that year’s Super League Dream Team as well as the RLIF’s International Team of the Year.
A three-year deal with Wests Tigers meant that the Yorkshireman became the first Great Britain international to test himself in Australia’s elite league since Sydney Roosters’ Adrian Morley. His signing was announced in the week leading up to the 2008 Grand Final.
Ellis made his debut in round one in 2009 for Wests and went on to be included in the International Team of the Year for the second year running.
In four seasons, the impassioned professional scored ten tries in 75 games and enamoured himself to the Tigers fans, coaches and players. Indeed, in 2010, head coach Tim Sheens labelled Ellis as “the best buy this club has had”. Though Ellis failed to win silverware in Australia, he won the Player of the Year three years in a row at Wests for the first time ever.
When, in February 2012, the forward announced he would be “coming home” in 2013, there was a flurry of interest from Super League clubs. Hull FC won the race for his signature and so Ellis, at the age of 32, would finish his career on Humberside.
Settling in seamlessly, the forward was one of the main catalysts in Hull FC’s drive towards winning trophies and, as captain, led the Airlie Birds to back-to-back Challenge Cup successes in 2016 and 2017, before announcing his retirement at the end of the latter.
Ellis’ professionalism and determination to succeed rubs off on those around him and it is obvious when he is present on the field. His teammates’ work ethic increases considerably because no one wants to appear as though they are letting their captain down. An incredible leader, the trigenarian became a phenomenon for his country too, appearing 17 times for Great Britain and 16 times for England.
The impressive forward was so missed by Hull on and off the field, that he came out of retirement in February 2019 – playing 20 games – and, in a remarkable change of heart, pledged a new one-year deal ahead of the 2020 season.