Jim Drake: Tough rugby league prop for Hull and Great Britain

Jim Drake was one half of arguably the most famous pair of twins to play rugby league together. Unlike the Beardmores, the Raynes or the Australian Walters twins, there was nothing remotely identical about the Drakes. Bill, the taller, and the younger by 10 minutes, began as a free-striding winger and became a smooth, skilled back-row forward. The shorter, thick-set Jim was something quite different; one of the toughest props in the game at a time when being tough, even distinctly rough, was a prerequisite in the front row.

The Drake twins were born in Workington in 1931, but grew up in York, where they both played for the amateur club at Heworth. For Jim, it was his second choice of sport. He was a promising schoolboy footballer until he injured his knee playing rugby, missed a trial for Yorkshire Boys and turned instead to the 13-a-side game.

He originally signed for Hull as a dashing full-back, but contracted rheumatic fever and piled on weight during a long lay-off. He was told that he would never play again, and when he defied that prognosis and returned, he was better suited to the pack. He got his chance at loose forward when the regular in that role, Johnny Whiteley, was delayed in a traffic jam. He was an immediate success and, stage by stage, he moved forward until he found his natural home at prop.

By the 1956-57 season he was a key member of an outstanding Hull pack. But he had persistent bad lack with injuries, missing a Challenge Cup final, a Championship final and, worst of all, the 1958 Lions tour to Australia. He did play in the 1959 Cup final and appeared for his country against France in 1960, as well as five times for Cumberland in the County Championship.

The respect he commanded in the game is disguised by that modest representative career. Respect and not a little fear, because Drake was renowned as a forward who would do almost anything to get on top of his opposition.

"He was a Jekyll and Hyde character, in that on the field he was nasty," Whiteley recalled. "But off it he was as soft as you could get." As one opponent, the international prop Terry Clawson put it in his autobiography: "I never played in any game with Jim Drake without some sort of set-to... You had to watch him like a hawk." Even he added, however, that, "off the field he was a great bloke."

Drake played for Hull until 1961, racking up 243 appearances and 38 tries and qualifying for a testimonial before moving across the city to Hull Kingston Rovers and playing on until 1965. With Rovers he appeared in three consecutive Challenge Cup semi-final defeats and a loss to Hunslet in the 1962 Yorkshire Cup final. He played a total of 64 games at Hull KR, for whom he became almost as big a hero as he had been at Hull.

Dave Hadfield

Jim Drake, rugby league player: born Workington, Cumberland 20 February 1931; married 1951 Doreen Whisker (one daughter); died Hull 8 October 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower