O’Toole joins the rugby league actors XIII

Cathar Treize Roar Guru

By Cathar Treize, Cathar Treize is a Roar Guru

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    The passing of film and stage legend Peter O’Toole, first immortalised in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, has a history entwined with the game of rugby league.

    O’Toole was evacuated from Leeds early in World War II and went to St Joseph’s Secondary School in Holbeck, Leeds.

    Upon leaving school O’Toole obtained employment as a trainee journalist and photographer on the Yorkshire Evening Post.

    Later he was called up for national service as a signaller in the Royal Navy.

    O’Toole attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) from 1952 to 1954 on a scholarship.

    At RADA, he was in the same class as Albert Finney.

    Peter O’Toole grew up in Hunslet playing rugby league.

    In his 1996 autobiography Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice he gained local fame as a speedy twelve-year-old back playing for a side known as the Raggy-Arsed Rovers.

    As he explained, their rugby league balls were of a rather inconsistent quality; patchworks of leather pieces were inflated by a bicycle tyre inner-tube, newspapers or just rags.

    At the worst, an unlucky player would ‘volunteer’ a shoe. To say the least, as O’Toole recounted them, his childhood games were rugby league at its rawest:

    The autobiography states “Two or three matches between teams from various clusters of streets were played simultaneously. One sometimes found oneself straying into others’ matches. Goalposts were a premium. If the pair had already been snatched, often a player’s younger brother, ‘our kid’, would find himself elected as a post. Kit was irrelevant. A familiar figure with the ball, you supported him; an unfamiliar, you downed the bastard”.

    Perhaps the Irish born actor can now join the Elite Actors XIII with that other famous deceased Irish actor Richard Harris, who played rugby league player Frank Machin in This Sporting Life.

    Other notables in the XIII line-up could include another well-known actor in early British film Sydney Howard in the 1935 rugby league themed comedy film Where’s George?

    Or the original Doctor Who actor William Hartnell, another to get his big break due to his rugby league links in This Sporting Life.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • December 17th 2013 @ 7:36am
      Storm Boy said | December 17th 2013 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      Peter of Hunslet becomes Laurence of Arabia. Well there you go.

      • December 17th 2013 @ 11:47am
        Seamus said | December 17th 2013 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        O’Toole was a cricket fan and Richard Harris was a rugby Union fan. Who else is in your actors 13 – Anh Do, Ian Roberts?? I have seen long bows before but this takes the cake..

        • December 17th 2013 @ 1:02pm
          Alvin Purple said | December 17th 2013 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          Ever heard of Russell Crowe?

          • December 17th 2013 @ 3:23pm
            Seamus said | December 17th 2013 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

            Russell Crowe makes 3?/ who did he play for and what RL role did he play on the screen??? An even longer bow….

            • December 17th 2013 @ 4:57pm
              Alvin Purple said | December 17th 2013 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

              Note sure who he played his junior footy for but he is a RL man which seems to be the issue you have with this articles reference to Peter O’Tooles association with RL.

              • December 17th 2013 @ 5:09pm
                Cathar Treize said | December 17th 2013 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

                Gee, I didn’t realise someone could be this bitter at someone once having an association with rugby league. Having played as a teenager, O’Toole definitely has a historical link with the sport. No more no less. Even Richard Harris remained a fan of Wakefield Trinity and made numerous friends at the club during his filming there. He even dived into the team recovery pool at Wembley stadium, fully dressed, when they won the challenge cup final, and remained interested in the club.

                I’m sure based in London and other parts of the world like Hollywood, these actors wouldn’t have had the opportunity to continue their association with the sport too often but certainly their links remained. I also doubt being a cricket fan wouldn’t have stopped them being exposed and attending NFL or basketball or any other sport during their travels and life. Seems a bit of a bitter & twisted remark well left to a website devoted to trolling rather than an article like this.

              • December 18th 2013 @ 11:33am
                Seamus said | December 18th 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

                I was looking for the other 10 with an even less tenuous link to RL which was the premise of a thin article..

              • December 18th 2013 @ 12:39pm
                clipper said | December 18th 2013 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

                Have to agree with Seamus – the links are tenuos – as the Wikipedia article notes
                O’Toole was a noted fan of rugby union, and attended Five Nations matches with friends and fellow rugby fans Richard Harris, Kenneth Griffith, Peter Finch and Richard Burton (O’Toole, Harris and Burton received 17 Oscar nominations combined) . He was also a lifelong player, coach and enthusiast of cricket, licensed to teach and coach cricket to children as young as ten. O’Toole was a fan of Sunderland A.F.C.. The allegiance lapsed, according to an article at the Salut! Sunderland website.
                Nothing at all about league, or anything in the Richard Harris biography. No doubt he played league when he was young, but it’s a stretch to say he was a league man above a Rugby man.

              • December 18th 2013 @ 7:42pm
                Cathar Treize said | December 18th 2013 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

                Where did I say he was a league man? I said their was a ‘link’, and there is a picture of Harris at Wakefield’s club rooms at the 1979 Wembley final consoling Trinity players who lost to Widnes in the Challenge Cup Final. Harris did keep an interest in Wakefield but as stated living in London, it would not have been easy following the team on a regular basis. I am providing examples. How do you know what his or O’Toole’s thoughts were of rugby league? I just see some union fans dismissing anything to do with rugby league.

                ” it’s a stretch to say he was a league man above a Rugby man.” where did I state this? I didn’t even mention union. The Times obituary of O’Toole didn’t even mention union in two pages! Why don’t you harass the Times editor?

              • December 19th 2013 @ 10:18am
                clipper said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:18am | ! Report

                I agree there are links, but to say Richard Harris could make up the X111 is like saying Anthony Hopkins could make a first 15 line up of real serial killers – why not have Arthur Lowe or Glenda Jackson in the X111 line up as well – afther all they all were actors in This Sporting Life, doing what actors do – act.

    • December 17th 2013 @ 12:47pm
      Wobbly said | December 17th 2013 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

      I met Peter O’Toole in the late nineties. He was a club patron, occasional umpire and regular barfly at Barnes Cricket Club in leafy south west London. A very approachable and affable guy, he had a fondness for young antipodeans over some of the local snobs.

      Whilst many of his punch lines were delivered in haughty Shakespearian tones, he certainly behaved like there were no flies on him. I would have loved to got to know him better. I wasn’t quite sure what he got from hanging around the cricket club other than the alcohol and the craic.

      I recall speaking one Saturday night at the bar about the Wallabies chances at the upcoming 99 World Cup. He was a regular at Twickenham, where he often attended with Richard Harris, Richard Burton and other acting mates. Even though I came from a League background, he was definitely more a Rugby guy in those days at least.

      When I heard the news of his passing, I was amazed he was only 81. The alcohol had obviously prematurely aged him because I would have guessed him to be late 70’s back then.

    • December 17th 2013 @ 8:30pm
      TREX said | December 17th 2013 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

      Great men Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 6:22pm
        Cathar Treize said | December 19th 2013 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

        Seems the necessary prerequisite to watch a game of rugger, be pissed as fart prior, remember nothing then re-write the history of the game as a glorious pursuit 🙂 Thanks for the laugh.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 11:37am
          Misto said | December 20th 2013 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          Envy is a mortal sin but I’m an AFL man…

          • December 20th 2013 @ 8:58pm
            Cathar Treize said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

            Given your sport has the morals & integrity of an alley cat, your comments mean nothing. Stick to AFL buddy, another league hater is not appreciated on these threads.

    • December 18th 2013 @ 8:39am
      sham said | December 18th 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Good article. I understand that This Sporting Life is actually a very good film. Having recently started reading several books on the history of league in England and France this film holds particular interest. I now have to try and find it. Like all good films of this type the film is really about more than rugby league. Another notable league film is the Australian film the Final Winter.

    • December 18th 2013 @ 12:17pm
      Nemo ohh ha ha said | December 18th 2013 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Matt noble from final winter/bikie wars

      • December 18th 2013 @ 1:11pm
        Nemo ohh ha ha said | December 18th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Ahn Do

    • December 18th 2013 @ 2:42pm
      vanilla gorilla said | December 18th 2013 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

      This Sporting Life… great rugby movie, with a dark, horror twist to it.
      I believe Richard Burton once proclaimed that he would rather play one rugby match for his beloved Wales, rather than perform Shakespeare at the Royal Albert Hall for the Queen.
      Boris Karloff was a pretty good lock for Hungary, and the founder of the Southern California Rugby Union in 1937. David Niven would join him and others for rugby matches at Griffith Park in LA, back in the day…
      shall I go on?

      • December 18th 2013 @ 7:43pm
        Cathar Treize said | December 18th 2013 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

        Given it’s a league article, no thanks!

        • December 19th 2013 @ 6:56am
          loosehead said | December 19th 2013 @ 6:56am | ! Report

          But you still have not responded to the question of who are the rest of the “Elite actors thirteen” and I hardly think Ahn Do and Ian Roberts qualify as elite actors.

          • December 19th 2013 @ 12:29pm
            Cathar Treize said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            Once again, the article was about interesting links with the game. Never said these actors are hardcore folowers & players of the game. I don’t understand how this ruffles feathers. Who is to say what actors may have links with the game, the actors 13 could continue into the future. But it appears the union fans think this is a nconspiracy to mislead. Shall we join O’Toole & Harris and sing “oh glory rugger, glory to our wonderful and pure history such it’s made in heaven” ….. Please.

            • December 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm
              loosehead said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

              So its a possible future “Elite Thirteen” spanning over decades with players who aren’t even born yet who possibly might become elite actors as well. So why didn’t you explain yourself more clearly then.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 2:29pm
                Cathar Treize said | December 19th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

                Oh shoot me then. Though better not say that as rugby union people have a habit of aligning with regimes, facism etc

          • December 19th 2013 @ 2:36pm
            Cathar Treize said | December 19th 2013 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

            Huge Jackman, through his link with following Manly, Simon Baker, member of the Eels and played as a youngster in Ballina. Sure there can be a few with links as either fans, members, juniors etc. That’s the whole point of the article. It was not some malicious attempt to discredit union though the trolls are somewhat spitting the usual bile. Not apprecaited and really makes one wonder the worth of writing articles when all you get, esp in the league section, are some pretty nasty dismissive and downright rude comments. I don’t go on other sports threads and write with bile.

            • December 19th 2013 @ 6:03pm
              Cathar Treize said | December 19th 2013 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

              Excuse me but buzz off. If there was an article on world prime ministers or presidents who could join a world xi for cricket then yes, for a bit of fun, John Howard could be included given his passion for cricket. If someone did an article on well-known St George Illawarra Dragon supporters, then John Howard could be included in a well-known XIII for supporters, nthen it could be fun for Dragon supporters to debate the merits of including Howard.

              I just don’t understand you inability at a bit of fun and the understanding of ‘link’. O’Toole went to a few Wakefield games after his role, so their is a ‘link’. Is it a crime to have a bit of fun with such links? I couldn’t care less how many times he watched league, but as what I’d imagine a Southern based very busy actor of stage & film, he managed to get to some very high profile games when Trinity went to London, suggests he knew the game and kept in touch. Again, how much I couldn’t care less. Link, link, link is what this is about you angry little person. So I can’t help your inability to understand this so just take your dislike of my article, and perhaps the sport of rugby league and go away please. Don’t apprecaite this highjacking of my article.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 11:42am
                Misto said | December 20th 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                Admit it the link was thin and a long bow by any stretch – next an article from Roy masters about the Wests magpies link to lee Harvey Oswald, the St George Dragon connection of how Neil Armstrong sought to go to the moon after accidentally seeing the dragons on TV one night and the NRL leading the world in the fight against domestic violence and improving race relations…

              • December 20th 2013 @ 1:52pm
                Seamus said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

                Hugh Jackman has been seen at Port Adelaide games with a scarf – Nicole Kidman at Swans games – doesn’t mean they have any great loyalty – in fact it doesn’t mean anything – pretty much like this article

              • December 20th 2013 @ 8:56pm
                Cathar Treize said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

                What are you on about? Seriously, you guys need to grow a brain.

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