Rugby league internationalist

Born: November 13, 1958;

Died: November 1, 2019

HUGH WADDELL, who has died aged 60, was that rarity, a Scottish star of Rugby League, the 13-a-side form of the game which is big in the north of England, but all but unknown in his native country.

Waddell took a somewhat roundabout route to sporting glory. He was born in Irvine, but while he was still a child, the family left Ayrshire for Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, where Hugh completed his schooling, then took up an apprenticeship as a precision engineer.

Back then, as befits someone with an Auchinleck connection, he played football, before switching to Rugby Union.

But, his life changed in 1983 when, on holiday with a girlfriend in Blackpool, he was dared to play a trial for the Blackpool Borough RL team, who were so impressed, they immediately offered him terms. Waddell, then working as a florist, immediately accepted and was soon attracting the attention of bigger clubs.

In 1984 he won his solitary England cap – there not being a Scotland RL side at that time. He then joined Oldham, with whom, in 1987, he won his first Great Britain cap, against France.

His displays for Oldham, when they won the Second Division Championship at Old Trafford in 1988 saw him back in the Great Britain ranks, a rare honour for a Second Division player; indeed, he was the only player from the second tier to be picked for the tour to Australia, where he played a key role in the victorious Third Test in Sydney.

The series had already been lost, and Great Britain went into that match having lost 15 straight internationals, but the team, including Waddell, played out of their skins to win 26-12. His performance that day persuaded top Australian RL side Manly Sea Eagles to offer him a deal.

Back in the UK, he joined Leeds Rhinos, where he played alongside fellow Scottish Great Britain star and future Rugby Union British Lion Alan Tait.

He then played for Sheffield Eagles, Wakefield Trinity, Swinton Lions, Rochdale Hornets and Barrow, before joining Carlisle Border Raiders in 1994, as player-coach. At Carlisle, he was one of five Scottish caps, playing in Scotland's inaugural Rugby League internationals. Indeed, Hugh was one of the instigators of the Scotland international team, playing for them in their first-ever international, against Ireland, and in the Emerging Nations World Cup, in England, in 1995.

Needless to say, launching a Scotland RL team did not go down well at Murrayfield; they tried everything to prevent the new Scotland team – a Scotland Development XIII, coached by the great John Risman, from playing against the North East of England, at Meadowbank in 1994.

Hugh had by now settled in the Carlisle area, where he had a day job as a van driver. He continued to play RL until he was 40, for Whitehaven, Egremont Rangers, ending his career – after a brief sojourn in the short-lived South Wales club – by captaining Scottish Border Eagles to the Scottish League title in 1998.

He went out in a blaze of glory too, captaining the Eagles to victory, and scoring two tries in the process, in the Grand Final against Edinburgh Eagles.

He came unexpectedly into the game, but he grew to love it, and the fans loved him. He was known as “Ten Bellies,” while at Leeds, but, at six foot one inches tall, and weighing between 16 and 17 stones, this was maybe unfair.

He was an enthusiast, he worked hard to develop Rugby League in Scotland and along the Border and he is fondly remembered at all his clubs, as a fierce competitor on the field, and a gentleman off it.

In his later years, he operated as a doorman at a popular Carlisle night spot. Away from work, he enjoyed golf and badminton.

His early first marriage failed, but in his later years he found happiness with his partner Elaine, who survives him along with Rebecca, Bridget, Victoria and Gareth, his children from his first marriage and Maisie, from his second relationship.