Rugby League: Ellis fuels a fiery passion with confidence: Castleford's winger aims to impress in today's Regal Trophy semi-final. Dave Hadfield reports

'I AM,' said St John Ellis, without a trace of regret, 'a very unusual person.'

Indeed. Infants with a given name more often associated with the host invisible or the House of Lords were a rarity in York 29 years ago and his background almost certainly makes him unique in his chosen sport. 'My father was from Jamaica. My mum's Anglo-American and the name came from a newscaster she'd seen on TV,' he said.

'Singe', as he tends to be known - although some still mistakenly dub him Ian St John Ellis - is a most unusual-looking person.

If he had been born in West Africa as light-skinned as he is, he would have become a griot, one of the musician caste. However, he was born in Yorkshire, became a rugby league player, and, this season more than ever, rather a remarkable one.

On the right wing for Castleford, Ellis has burnt opposing defences to the tune of 22 tries so far. More than anyone, he has benefited from the more laissez-faire approach they have adopted since the appointment of John Joyner as coach and he figures as the major threat to Bradford in this afternoon's Regal Trophy semi-final at Odsal.

'The style of play has changed at the club,' he said. 'John doesn't want us to cut any of the flair players out. We're likely to throw the ball around from anywhere and other teams can't read us. I've seen a lot of the ball and that has given me a lot of confidence to take people on.'

The instinctive enthusiasm with which Ellis takes people on can be a frustration as well as a joy to a coach. The previous imcumbent at Wheldon Road, Darryl Van de Velde, used to threaten to cut off his right leg if he did not curb his habit of throwing in an extra side-step for the hell of it.

'But now I've been given a free rein. I know John doesn't mind if I try to take someone on and it doesn't work. Next time it will.'

With the season only half-way through, Ellis has an excellent chance of breaking Castleford's record for tries in a season, the 36 scored by Keith Howe 30 years ago.

In one extraordinary burst this autumn, he crossed for hat-tricks in three successive appearances and for two tries in the next match. One of the hat-tricks was against the New Zealand tourists, giving him hope that he might be given another chance at international level.

Ellis played for Great Britain three years ago and has a burning desire to do so again. The experience was tantalisingly brief; twice he came on as substitute full-back in the latter stages of matches against France that were already convincingly won.

'I wouldn't say I've really had a taste at that level. I just got my lips wet. I thought I had a chance of playing against New Zealand, though, but they brought Martin Offiah straight in after his injury. Nothing against him - he can score tries from anywhere - but I thought I was in with a shout.'

Offiah, his Wigan team-mate, Jason Robinson, and John Devereux form a daunting barrier for any aspiring Test wing man at the moment, but Ellis, sitting on top of the try-scoring lists, has a strong argument at his disposal.

'A winger is judged on the tries he scores. If you look at the lists now, I think they're all about 10 behind me. In my situation, you've got to keep scoring. You've got to pick yourself.'

Apart from being called Ian, the one thing that irritates Ellis is being told that he is in his twilight. There is still far more bubbling, youthful enthusiasm in his game than there is of the world-weary and worldly-wise. 'I'll play till I drop,' he promises. 'I've got a zest for the game.

'When you look around a town like Castleford, with the redundancies and the pits closing, you realise how fortunate you are to be paid to do something you love. It gives you a responsibility to always give it your best shot as well, because, for a lot of people, having a good rugby team in town is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.'

Ellis' personal tunnel has a Test cap against France this Spring at its end. 'It shouldn't be the way it works, but you have to show what you can do in the right match, in front of the right people,' he said. 'A televised semi-final is perfect.'

Ellis will pursue his own personal game plan again this afternoon - one that has served him well so far this season.

'Every time I get the ball, I aim to do something different and to get a bit further with it than the previous time,' he said. 'If you can do that, you've played a perfect game, haven't you?

'You can't hide on a rugby league field - and who wants to hide anyway? - and you can't fool the spectators. But I believe that if you really want something, you'll get it.'

Ellis, an unusual man with an unusually fiery passion for his game, could get closer to what he craves today.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen