‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Danny Sculthorpe 2008. Sculthorpe moved onto Bradford in 2010 but injury prevented him from playing a game. He was subsequently released.
Tell us about your early days in the professional game.
I signed for Leeds as a teenager but I was diagnosed with diabetes around that time and really struggled with it. I put a lot of weight on and struggled a lot with my fitness. I lived with a great family, who I’m still friends with but I just wanted to go back home so I moved to Warrington. Paul had only just left to go to Saints so unfortunately my face didn’t fit but that was probably also due to the fact that I was overweight and unfit. So I got a job and went to Rochdale and I loved my time there. That’s where my career really kicked off.
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was 15 and I really struggled to come to terms with it at that age. I thought it was a lot worse than it is but I’ve discovered that it’s an easy illness to have when it’s well controlled. I got the hang of it eventually and it’s sorted now. Brett Stewart, the New South Wales fullback, has it and Steve Renouf played with it too.
Does it affect your game at all?
No. I test my blood a lot, even at half time during games so I’m always aware of what my blood sugar is. In fact, a lot of people at the club probably don’t even realise I’m diabetic because I have no trouble with it… touch wood!
When you left Leeds for Warrington, you were part of the Iestyn Harris transfer.
Yes I was. Iestyn was originally listed at £1.35m and eventually went for £350,000 plus me. So as far as I’m concerned, I was the first million pound Rugby League player!
How do you remember your time at Rochdale?
At first I was playing three games a week, for the Academy, reserves and first team, just to get fit. I was there for about three years and played under Deryck Fox and Steve Linnane. Some of the local derbies against Oldham were fantastic and, to the locals, they’re as important as any derby in the game. In 2001 I was picked to play in an NFP Under-21’s side against the Super League in a game we won. From that, I was picked to tour South Africa for the England Under-21s and I captained the side in the second game which was a fantastic honour, especially considering blokes like Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire played. John Kear was our coach and he was assistant coach at Wigan so that’s how I ended up there.
But unfortunately you suffered a lot of injuries at Wigan.
I came back from the tour and signed for Wigan straightaway, leaving my day job in the process but in my first year I slipped a disc in my back and missed a lot of games, including the Challenge Cup final. I was even told I might not play again. The next season I played a fair bit, part of a four-prop rotation but it wasn’t the happiest part of my career. I had to just cart the ball up and I couldn’t use any of my skills because we had players like Adrian Lam and Andy Farrell to do all that. But I ended up playing for England A against the touring Kangaroos at the end of the year. We were expected to get a bit of a touch up but we nearly beat them. It was such a strong Aussie team but we showed what we could do too.
You were selected to play for Lancashire in 2003 but you must have painful memories of the hammering Yorkshire handed you.
Absolutely. It was my rep debut and I was due to play alongside Paul but he pulled his hamstring the day before. I ended up starting because Barrie McDermott pulled out and I was so up for it, but we were about 20-0 down in ten minutes!
Cynics used to suggest that the players didn’t take those games entirely seriously. Do you think that was the case?
Not at all. You can’t go into a game up against Jamie Peacock or Paul Anderson and be half-hearted. You’d get smashed! We all took it very seriously.
Even though you lost, was the 2004 Challenge Cup final the highlight of your Wigan career?
Definitely. The whole thing was unbelievable from the coach drive to the game, seeing all the fans, going through the tunnel on the bus, the team meetings… it’s what you play rugby for.
You were playing against Paul. How did your parents feel?
They were proud because it was my first final and Paul’s first as captain, so they felt they couldn’t lose. After the game they didn’t know what to do because they didn’t want to be celebrating with Saints, thinking I’d be sulking. But I saw them and told them to enjoy it for him. As long as we both come off the field OK, our parents are happy.
Have you ever come to blows with Paul on the pitch?
No, never. He’d probably knock my head off. I might have dropped on him once or twice with my knees but only in fun!
How good a player was your elder brother, Lee?
He was an awesome player and he played some first-team at Rochdale with me. A lot of people thought he was the best of the three of us but he liked the social side of things and he had a really good job. He did it for the fun and was a top amateur player but he could have definitely made it if he’d been dedicated enough.
Why did you leave Wigan?
Ian Millward, who I didn’t like, rang me from Manchester airport at the end of the 2005 season, on his way back to Australia. He told me I didn’t fit in with his plans and to find another club. That was it and I couldn’t get in touch with him after that. So I spoke to my agent and he got me to Castleford which turned out to be the best move I could have made and 2006 was the best year I’ve had in Super League.
You were relegated with Cas but you still had a lot of good players, especially in the forwards.
That’s definitely right. We had an awesome pack with Danny Nutley, Danny Ward, Willie Manu and Richard Fa’aoso. We never lost a battle in the forwards but we just couldn’t score enough tries and we struggled in the halves until Danny Brough arrived.
How do you look back on your eventual relegation?
We were unlucky. We thought we were safe but Wakefield came up with that miracle win at Bradford while we lost to Salford. Then it was us against them and we lost. But what’s happened has happened and I’m now at another great club in Wakefield.
Would you have stayed at Cas if they hadn’t gone down?
Probably. My contract was voided when we got relegated but I think I’d have stayed there if they’d been in Super League again because I loved my time there so much. In the end, Steve Ferres phoned my up and sold the club to me. Unfortunately I had a nightmare with injuries last season. It wasn’t one major injury, just lots of niggling ones. I’d play two, miss two, come back for three then miss three. I couldn’t get going but I’ve only missed two out of 19 this year and I’m really enjoying myself especially with the freedom that John allows me to play with.
How much did the side focus on the Challenge Cup before the season?
We wanted to make at least the semi-final and we have done. We got a kind draw up till now and, no disrespect to Hull, but we wanted to avoid Saints and Leeds. It’s John Kear’s big competition so who knows?
What’s your contract situation?
I’ve got another 18 months and I’m enjoying it here. We’ve got a great set of lads and, you never know, I might not be the only Sculthorpe here next year…
Stranger things have happened! Paul comes off contract at the end of the year and Wakefield are really keen to get him over. John’s always asking me what Paul’s thinking and Paul loves the way Wakefield play. I think he could be at Wakefield next year. Paul’s always wanted us to play together before we retire and next year could be the one.