Hull KR’s first England international: Sam Morfitt

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Hull KR’s first England international: Sam Morfitt

Sam (also known as Sammy) Morfitt was Hull Kingston Rovers’ first international player.  He played six times for England between 1894 and 1896 as well as 10 times for Durham and 7 times for Yorkshire. 

Born in Hull in 1868, Sam was only 5ft 4ins “tall” and weighed 10st 6lb, quite similar in size to Roger Millward.  He was also a boxer, runner, and a good rifle shot.  He began as a half-back but later moved to centre. 

He began his playing career in his teens with Holderness Wanderers and Three Crowns, and then joined his older brother, John, at the Southcoates club from 1887-89.  They played at the Craven Street ground before Rovers. 

He was playing for Southcoates when he received a call from Hull FC who were a man short.  He finished the game at Craven Street and then ran to Hull FC’s Holderness Road ground to play there as well. 

He then transferred to Rovers for one season before moving to Hartlepool for several years where he gained his first county and international representative honours. 

Sam returned to Rovers in 1895 at the time of the great split and formation of the Northern Union.  He gained further international honours playing for England against Wales, Ireland and Scotland as well as several further appearances for Yorkshire. 

In late 1896, a time when Rovers were being investigated by the Rugby Union for allegations of professionalism, Sam became embroiled in a controversy when he announced that he would be moving to Hull FC.  However, within days conflicting reports emerged concerning the move and shortly after he reversed his decision.  It has to be speculated that the supposedly amateur Rovers had made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse.  The affair clearly annoyed the Hull Daily Mail who nicknamed Sam the “Weathercock of Witham” in a subsequent article. 

Rovers were admitted to the Northern Union in 1897-98 but there were no vacancies in the Yorkshire Senior Competition so they had to play friendlies for a year, and as a result, Sam and several other players asked for transfers.  However, Rovers persuaded Sam to stay and made him captain.  In 1898-99 there was still no vacancy in the YSC and instead, Rovers played in the Yorkshire Second Competition, which they won. 

In 1899, Sam was awarded a testimonial, he continued playing until he was 34 in 1903.  Sam’s club record shows that he made 104 appearances scoring 55 tries and 26 goals. 

He died on 16 January 1954 aged 85 and is buried in Hedon road cemetery. 

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