Written by Callum Walker
Despite enjoying the best rugby of his career at St Helen’s, it was at Wigan where Lee Gilmour made his debut in 1997. Whilst at Wigan, Gilmour scored 24 tries in 108 appearances, winning the 1998 Super League Grand Final with the Warriors. That set him on the path to greatness for which we know him.
1998 was a breakthrough season for him as he enjoyed the sort of year that young players dream about. At the start of that season, he had made just one substitute appearance. By the end of it, he had established himself in the back row, played in a Challenge Cup final, been named as Super League‘s Young Player of the Year and played for Great Britain.
A rangy, athletic second-rower or centre, Gilmour spent five seasons at Wigan – making his debut for Great Britain whilst there – before a move to Bradford came about ahead of the 2001 season.
Gilmour missed Bradford’s Grand Final victory in 2001 in a cruel twist of fate. Despite this absence, he was part of the Bulls team that beat NRL premiership winners Newcastle Knights in the 2002 World Club Challenge.
Another Grand Final loss – Gilmour had been part of the Wigan side that lost to St Helen’s in the 2000 Grand Final too – came about in 2002 as the Bulls lost to Saints at Old Trafford. The Dewsbury native notched up 20 tries in 126 appearances whilst at the West Yorkshire side.
Whilst at Wigan and Bradford Gilmour had been seen as a utility player, at St Helen’s, that was not the case as the then prospective new coach, Ian Millward, made it clear that he saw him as a starting second-rower.
Gilmour’s move back to Lancashire at the end of 2003 was completely justified as he went on to play in 146 games, scoring 45 tries. A few trophy-less seasons went by until Saints secured the Challenge Cup in 2006 as well as winning the Grand Final that year and the World Club Challenge in 2007 against NRL premiers Brisbane Broncos.
He swapped Lancashire for West Yorkshire in July 2009, linking up with Huddersfield Giants aged 31. Though retirement was regularly rumoured, Gilmour managed to register 81 appearances, scoring 19 tries. He ending up spending three seasons at Huddersfield before moving to Castleford Tigers at the end of 2012 to link up with former boss Ian Millward.
Injuries, however, plagued his time at Castleford and he made just 13 appearances in what was a struggling Castleford side. A loan move to Wakefield came about in 2014 and he scored twice in 13 appearances before hanging up his boots at the end of that year at the age of 36. He subsequently joined Wakefield’s coaching staff.
Although his Super League career was over, his Rugby League career wasn’t. In July 2016, he signed for his home town amateur club and National Conference Division One side Shaw Cross Sharks where he started his career. It was a move that Gilmour had always wanted to fulfil.
His club form for Wigan, Bradford and St Helens earned him call-ups to Great Britain. He played 15 times for the Lions, scoring one try as well as appearing three times for Scotland at the 2000 World Cup. His most famous moment in a Great Britain shirt was scoring the decisive try in the Lions’ 23-12 victory over Australia at the then-named Aussie Stadium in 2006.
Standing at 6 ft 2 tall and weighing just less than 100kg, Gilmour was an imposing figure and impressive ball-handler. With an ability to offload in tight circumstances and a superb defensive game, Gilmour was an all-rounder.