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Paul “Baloo” Anderson and the career that nearly never was

31 May 20, 8:51AM 0 Comments

Written by Callum Walker

Photo by Getty Images

Paul Anderson began his career at Leeds before the advent of Super League, debuting in 1991 aged 19. His talent was already clear from an early age as he went on to make two appearances for Great Britain Under-21s whilst at the West Yorkshire club.

The mighty prop forward enjoyed the most success of his career, however, with Leeds’ bitter rivals, Bradford Bulls whom he joined ahead of the 1997 Super League season after a short stint at Halifax.

At Bradford, the 6 ft 1 monster forward played 175 games, scoring 33 tries over a period of eight years. Anderson was an integral part of the Bulls’ so-called “Golden Era”, winning two Grand Finals, two World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups in his time at Bradford.

At the age of 33, the Castleford-born forward would perhaps have expected his career to finish at the Bulls. But, St Helens came calling – a club that the prop lost in four finals to when he was the cornerstone of the Bradford pack – and Anderson jumped at the opportunity.

Paul Anderson England

And, despite being towards the latter stages of his career, “Baloo” – a nickname earned because of his appearance like that of the big bear from the Jungle Book – played a pivotal role for the Lancashire side in his last two years in the game.

In 2006, the uncompromising prop was at the forefront of Saints’ treble-winning season and hung his boots at the end of that year having played 62 games in his time at Knowsley Road. The image of this hard, uncompromising forward taking a kick from the sideline in his last home game – and succeeding – will go down forever in the memories of fans that were there.

But, Anderson’s career was not straightforward and it was 50/50 as to whether he would make it in the game; in the 1993-94 season, when, as an exciting young prop for Halifax, he developed an abscess in his bowel which refused to heal.

Paul Anderson Huddersfield

The unpleasant, debilitating symptoms grew progressively worse over 18 months until he was pretty much incontinent. The physical and mental toll was considerable and by the end almost considered retirement.

Known for his no-nonsense approach, Baloo was the perfect candidate for an international front-rower and, during his career, he registered five appearances for England and 10 for Great Britain. When he retired from the game, he held the title as the heaviest Super League player at a whopping 18 stone – whether or not he wanted this accolade is another matter.

He took over as assistant coach of Huddersfield Giants in 2007 and head coach in 2013, steering the club to their first-ever League Leaders’ Shield in his first year. Following a poor run of results, Anderson was sacked in 2016 and became an assistant coach for the England national side.

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