Written by Callum Walker
Lee Radford began and ended his career with the club where he was born – Hull. Although most people know Hull as FC, in 1997 – when he made his debut as a teenager – the club were then known as Hull Sharks.
Hull were then cut off from Super League, but earned promotion in 1997. Radford came through as either a prop forward or second rower in that time, appearing eight times and scoring twice in two seasons.
Radford left Hull at the end of 1998 for Bradford. The move was a sensible one; Bradford were becoming one of the dominant forces in Super League whilst Hull were languishing near the bottom of the table. It took the forward five years to win his first pieces of silverware as the Bulls lifted the Challenge Cup and secured the Grand Final title in 2003.
Radford was also part of the Bulls side that beat Penrith Panthers in the 2004 World Club Challenge. Heartache followed later that year as Bradford lost to Leeds in the Grand Final, but the Bulls gained revenge in 2005, winning 6-15 at Old Trafford.
The Grand Final victory was such a spectacle for Radford that he had to be placed on an oxygen pump as the ticker-tape rained down and fireworks lit up Old Trafford with the forward enduring his first asthma attack.
The pull of returning to Hull proved too much and, at the end of 2005, Radford moved back home.
Though FC made the Grand Final in 2006 and the Challenge Cup Final in 2008, they lost both to St Helens, the former 26-4 and the latter 26-18. In 2007, Radford had the honour of becoming captain of his boyhood club.
However, no silverware came his or Hull’s way and in October 2011, he retired from the game aged only 32 to become assistant coach to then-boss Peter Gentle.
Following Gentle’s move back to Australia, Radford was appointed head coach of Hull FC in 2014 and led the Airlie Birds to back-to-back Challenge Cup successes in 2016 and 2017, before parting ways in 2020.
An enforcer on the field, the forward earned five caps for England between 2001 and 2006.
Off the field, Radford took part in a boxing match in February 2007, the Rumble in the Humber – adapting the Rumble in the Jungle moniker where Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in 1974 – against fellow rugby league player, Stuart Fielden. The fight raised £50,000 for Steve Prescott in his battle with stomach cancer. Radford won the bout, stopping Fielden in the second round.
Both Radford’s taking part in the fight and the outcome of it epitomised his character on and off the Rugby League field. He was determined to do his bit for charity, but he was also good enough and strong enough to beat a fellow Rugby League player.
The forward was one of the strongest players to play Super League and never took a backwards step. At 6 ft 2 and over 16 stone, he had the physique to steamroller opponents and most of the time that’s just what he did.