Unusually, for a professional player Carl Gibson’s interest in rugby league began relatively late in life. He did not play the game until he moved to Batley High School and joined the rugby league team at the age of 11. The school changed to Rugby union a couple of years later andCarl was selected play for Yorkshire and England Schools teams at the 15 a side code. His heart remained with Rugby League though and after leaving school he resumed his career with Batley Boys and later moved to Shaw Cross.
Carl enjoyed a successful spell in the amateur game and soon began to attract interest from a number of professional clubs. He was being signed by local club Batley in 1981 and enjoyed a successful spell at Mount Pleasant. It brought him over 100 tries and a call up to play for Great Britain, his international debut coming in the 50-5 defeat of France at Headingley in 1985.
This success attracted interest from the game’s big name clubs and Carl moved to Peter Fox’s Leeds in the 1986-7 season, for a fee of £50,000. His all-round game improved significantly in this new environment. He worked hard on his defensive play, developed what became a trademark sidestep and moved inside to the centre position. But after reaching the semi-final of the Challenge cup in his first year major honours proved hard to come by.
Carl’s hard work bore fruit on the international scene, however, and he went out as an early replacement on the 1988 Great Britain tour to Australia. His game had developed sufficiently by 1990 to earn a place in the initial squad to tour New Zealand. He appeared in all five tests on the trip, won the players player of the tour award and was called up for the home series against Australia later in the same year. The series against Australia saw Great Britain come within a few minutes of winning the Ashes for the first time since 1970. Carl played in all three Tests and enjoyed one of his finest defensive performances playing opposite Mal Menninga in the first encounter, as Great Britain won 19-12 at Wembley.
During nine seasons at Leeds Carl scored of 91 tries in just short of 200 matches, which included a record breaking run of 91 consecutive appearances between 1988 and 1990. But after recovering from a broken leg, he found difficulty regaining his place in the first team and moved to Featherstone in 1993, where he was reunited with Peter Fox. Carl spent a hugely enjoyable 3 year spell at Post Office Road and in his first season Featherstone defeated his former club Leeds both home and away. He then returned to Batley to end his professional career where it started, but was forced to retire due to injury after just one game.
Carl recovered sufficiently to play at amateur level a couple of years later, and has recently turned out for the South Asia Bulls with former team mate Ikram Butt. Also, after retirement, he went back into education and now works with underprivileged children at a residential home in Leeds and a school in Halifax; a job he finds extremely rewarding.
Hear Carl Gibson on:
- Adapting to life at Leeds
- A first taste of International football.
- Playing against Australia