Ellery Hanley

Cuthwyn Ellery Hanley MBE (born 27 March 1961) is an English former rugby league player and coach. Over a nineteen-year professional career (1978–1997), he played for Bradford Northern, Wigan, Balmain, Western Suburbs and Leeds.[1] He won 36 caps for Great Britain, captaining the team from 1988 to 1992, and 2 for England. Nicknamed 'Mr Magic' and 'The Black Pearl', he played most often as a stand-off or loose forward after starting out as a centre or wing.

Ellery Hanley
Ellery Hanley.jpg
Personal information
Full nameCuthwyn Ellery Hanley
Born (1961-03-27) 27 March 1961 (age 60)
Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Playing information
PositionWing, Centre, Stand-off, Loose forward
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1978–85 Bradford Northern 126 89 0 0 356
1985–91 Wigan 202 189 0 0 756
1988 Balmain Tigers 8 5 0 0 20
1989 Western Suburbs 13 4 0 0 16
1991–95 Leeds 114 106 0 0 424
1996–97 Balmain Tigers 26 3 0 1 13
Total 489 396 0 1 1585
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1984–92 England 2 2 0 0 8
1984–93 Great Britain 36 20 0 0 80
1985–91 Yorkshire 5 4 0 1 17
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1999 St. Helens 34 26 0 8 76
2008 Doncaster 35 23 0 12 66
Total 69 49 0 20 71
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1994 Great Britain 3 1 0 2 33
Source: [1][2][3][4]

Hanley won the Man of Steel Award a record three times, the Lance Todd Trophy once, and the Golden Boot in 1988. He was awarded the MBE in January 1990 for services to the game. In 2005 he was inducted into the Rugby Football League Hall of Fame.

After his playing career, he had spells as head coach of Great Britain, St Helens and Doncaster.


Hanley was born in Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, of Jamaican descent.[5] He is the father of Umyla Hanley, who currently plays in Super League for the Wigan Warriors.[6]

Bradford NorthernEdit

In 1978, Hanley signed for Bradford Northern from the junior club Corpus Christi.[7] On 26 November 1978, he made his professional début for Northern against Rochdale Hornets in a League Division One match. He helped his club to a 30–18 victory, by scoring a try on his début.[8] He had to wait his time before gaining a regular first team place but in the early 1980s he emerged as one of the top players in the game.

In 1984–85, his last season with the club, Hanley became the first man to score more than 50 tries in a season since Alf Ellaby, and the first non-winger to reach this figure for 70 years.[7] He scored a remarkable 55 tries in only 37 appearances, an achievement made even more remarkable as he switched between the positions of wing, centre and stand-off.[8] For his achievements in the 1984–85 season, he was awarded the Man of Steel award, which is awarded to the player judged to have made the biggest impact in the season, as well as the First Division Player of the Year.

In total, Hanley made 126 appearances for the club, scoring 89 tries.[8]


In 1985 he signed for Wigan for a fee of £150,000, with Steve Donlan and Phil Ford moving to Bradford Northern in exchange for Hanley as part of the deal.[9] Hanley finished his first season for the club with 35 tries.

During his second season at Wigan he scored 63 tries playing at centre, stand-off and loose forward, an all-time record for a non-winger. In the 1987 season, Hanley was awarded the Man of Steel award, being voted the player who made the biggest impact during the season. His play that year helped Wigan to their first league title in 27 years. He played in Wigan's 1987 World Club Challenge victory against the visiting Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Hanley holds the record for the most tries in a Regal Trophy (or precursors) Final with 3 tries.

In 1988, Hanley was in dispute with Wigan and was stripped of the captaincy. He was transfer listed at a then record £350,000. But when Wigan reached the semi-final of the 1988 Rugby League Challenge Cup against Salford, coach Graham Lowe recalled Hanley to the team. Upon his return Hanley scored a magnificent try in the final at Wembley Stadium. Ironically it was set up by Joe Lydon – reminiscent of the two tries he scored against Wigan four years earlier. Ray French stated it was the second greatest ever seen in a final.[1]

Hanley was then selected as captain for the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour. The Lions defeated Papua New Guinea but lost The Ashes to Australia, losing the first two tests in Sydney and Brisbane. The third test was a triumph for Hanley and his Lions though as they defeated Australia for the first time in a test match since 5 November 1978, ending Australia's streak of 15 straight wins over Great Britain. The Lions then defeated New Zealand 12–10 in Christchurch for their only test in NZ to finish the tour on a high note.

In 1989, Hanley helped the club reach the Challenge Cup Final, where they won a 27–0 victory over St Helens in front of a crowd of approximately 78,000 people at Wembley, the first time in Cup Final history at Wembley that a side had been held scoreless. He was awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for the man of the match.[10] For his performances throughout the season he was also awarded the Man of Steel award for the second time as a Wigan player, and the third time in his overall career. 1989 was also the year in which Hanley was awarded the Adidas Golden Boot, which was awarded to the world's most outstanding player. Hanley remembers that "It was something I always strove for. I wanted to be the best player in the world… Looking back, to be the world's best player at that time was the biggest honour of my career."[11]

Internationally, 1990 was a disappointment. Hanley captained Great Britain against the 1990 Kangaroos, and although they pulled off a shock 19–12 win over Australia in the first test at Wembley with Hanley playing a prominent role, the Kangaroos would come back to win the second and third tests to extend their Ashes series streak over the Lions which dated back to 1973. Prior to the arrival of the Kangaroos in England, Hanley's influence in the British game was shown. During one early season Wigan game leading English referee Robin Whitfield sent Hanley off for back-chat and as he departed the field Hanley allegedly told Whitfield that he would end up in the second division. Hanley was originally handed a 2 match suspension for his actions. However, upon appeal this was reduced to just one week, and Whitfield, despite his standing as one of the game's top officials, refereed the second division for the next 6 weeks.[12]

He led Wigan to another two League and Cup doubles. By 1991 though his relationship with the media reached an all-time low. Although both Wigan and Great Britain captain, he was not expected to carry out any media role.

In total he spent around five years with the club, making 202 appearances and scoring 189 tries. In his Wigan career, he won a World Club Championship, 4 Challenge Cup winners medals, 3 Championships, 1 Premiership, 4 John Player Trophy Winners medals and 4 Lancashire Cup winners medals. He was also voted Man of Steel twice as a Wigan player. Hanley was inducted into the Wigan Hall of Fame in 2007.

Balmain (1988)Edit

Hanley, the Great Britain captain, was signed by Sydney club Balmain Tigers to play the remaining rounds of the 1988 NSWRFL season for them once his representative commitments were fulfilled.[13] In his first season with the club he helped them to the Grand Final in 1988 against Canterbury by defeating Penrith, Manly, Canberra as well as Cronulla in the preliminary finals. The preliminary final against Cronulla was a closely fought battle, until Hanley went to set up the try that would seal the victory for Balmain as they edged out their opponents 9–2, the win sending the club to their first Grand Final since 1969.

The first half of the Grand Final was a tight contest as Balmain led 6–4 scoring due to a mistake from Canterbury fullback Jason Alchin. In the 26th minute, Hanley was wrapped up low by Andrew Farrar, and as he want to offload the ball, Terry Lamb hit Hanley with a high tackle[14] that went unnoticed by the referee. He hit the ground in an awkward position and was concussed. He played no further part in the match, and his side went on to lose the game 24–12. Lamb said he was only looking to wrap the ball up and there was no intention. Lamb commented in his 1992 book that Balmain had key players such as Wayne Pearce, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen and Garry Jack that there was no chance to target one individual.

Speaking to Inside Sport Magazine in August 2005, Hanley was asked:

What do you remember about that infamous tackle by Terry Lamb?

"I don't know if it was caused by Terry Lamb, or if it was just my head hitting the ground. I couldn't tell you because I have never looked at it since. Some people have said Terry got a good shot on me. I suspect, however, it was more a case of my head hitting the ground. I like to think it was accidental. Afterwards, I was concussed and didn't know where I was. I didn't regain all my faculties immediately so, from a safety point of view, I had to come off the football field. It was a shame, but it is a physical game and sometimes things like that happen."

Have you spoken to Lamb since then?

"No, I never have. I have never bumped into him. I have to say I respect him as a footballer. I don't know him as a person, but by all accounts he is a good guy. Let me be clear that I have no malice towards him, none at all, regardless of the incident being deliberate or accidental."[11]

The New South Wales Rugby League, despite the media pressure, backed up Lamb's version of events and deemed he had no case to answer.

Western SuburbsEdit

In 1989, Hanley moved from Balmain to Western Suburbs. He played a total of thirteen games, scoring four tries for a total of sixteen points in his one and only season for the club. 1989 was also the year in which Hanley was awarded the Adidas Rugby League World Golden Boot Award, which was awarded to the world's most outstanding player.


In September 1991 at the age of 30, he joined Leeds as a player and coach for £250,000, and on his arrival at the club, was immediately appointed captain.

He was selected to go on the 1992 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand, but his appearances were restricted by injury. Also in 1992 he played from the bench in Great Britain's defeat by Australia in the World Cup Final at Wembley.

The 1993–94 season saw Hanley play in the Challenge Cup Final for the first time with Leeds. In the previous game, the Challenge Cup semi-final, Leeds faced St Helens at Central Park. Hanley scored two tries to put the club back on the big stage for the first time in sixteen years. In the Final, the club's opponents were Hanley's former club Wigan. In front of an official attendance at Wembley of 78,348, Leeds were defeated 16–26 by Wigan.

In the 1994–95 season, Hanley set a new world record for a forward, scoring 41 tries in a season. During that season, Hanley helped the club reach the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley for the second consecutive year. Ironically it was the same opponent that they faced a year earlier in the same competition final. In front of an attendance of 78,550 they were defeated, just as they had been a year earlier by their opponents, this time going down 30–10.

Whilst playing for Leeds, the World League of American football was formed in 1991. It was reported that Hanley would play for the London Monarchs but this never materialised.

Balmain (1996–97)Edit

In 1996 and well past his prime, Hanley returned to the Australian club Balmain for his second spell with the club. Hanley stated that "I wanted to be respected by the Australians as well, because their game is so superior to ours."[11]

Representative careerEdit

Hanley won caps for England while at Bradford Northern in 1984 against Wales, while at Leeds in 1992 against Wales,[2] and won caps for Great Britain while at Bradford Northern in 1984 against France (sub), France, Australia (3 matches), New Zealand (3 matches), and Papua New Guinea, in 1985 against France (2 matches), while at Wigan in 1985 against New Zealand (3 matches), in 1986 against France, and Australia, in 1987 against France (2 matches), and Papua New Guinea, in 1988 against France (2 matches), Papua New Guinea, Australia (3 matches), and New Zealand, in 1989 against France (2 matches), in 1990 against France, and Australia (3 matches), in 1991 against France (2 matches), while at Leeds in 1992 against Australia, in 1993 against France.[3]

Great BritainEdit

He made his Great Britain début as a substitute, whilst still a Bradford Northern player, in January 1984 against France in Avignon. He was selected in the Great Britain squad in 1984 to tour to Australia and was one of the stars of the 1984 Ashes series, scoring a remarkable twelve tries playing mostly on the wing.

In 1988, he became a regular member of the Great Britain team and was appointed captain. In the 1988 Ashes series, he led his side to victory over Australia for the first time in 10 seasons. Along the way he also scored eight tries.

Hanley also toured Australia in 1992 for the Ashes series, but despite being captain of the squad, on the field he made only one appearance and played less than fifteen minutes in a minor tour match against Newcastle.

In total he was capped 34 times by Great Britain.

Coaching careerEdit

In 1994 following Mal Reilly's decision to step down as both Great Britain and Halifax coach to become coach of Australian club the Newcastle Knights, Hanley was appointed coach of the Great Britain Lions during the Ashes series against Australia during the 1994 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France. His appointment meant he had become the first black person to coach or manage a major national team in Great Britain. After a 12-man Lions team pulled off a gutsy 8–4 win in the first test at Wembley (following the first half send-off of captain Shaun Edwards for a high tackle), they lost the series when Australia won the second test 34–8 at Old Trafford, and 23–4 at Elland Road in Leeds.

The 1994 Ashes series would prove to be Hanley's only time as Great Britain coach. For the 1995 Rugby League World Cup held in England and Wales, Great Britain was not playing, with England and Wales competing instead. Also, Hanley had signed with the Australian Rugby League during the Super League war which began in 1995 while the RFL were aligned with the Super League.[4]

In 1999, he was appointed as the coach of St. Helens as the successor to Shaun McRae. In his first season as coach, he led St. Helens to the 1999 Super League Grand Final. His side defeated the Bradford Bulls, the club he began his professional playing career at, by 8–6 in October of that year. Whilst he harboured a strong desire to win, he could appear aloof and had several acrimonious disagreements with the St. Helens board of directors, which led to his suspension[15] and eventual sacking as the manager of St Helens in 2000. Ian Millward was appointed as his successor.

He switched to rugby union coaching and took up posts with Bristol Rugby, and in the England national set-up. He also got involved in the sport of squash before returning to rugby league as a coaching consultant with Castleford Tigers in 2004. He worked with Cas for just two months before leaving.

On 14 December 2007 Hanley was unveiled as the coach of National League Two Club Doncaster.[16] He resigned from that rôle on 28 September 2008, following Doncaster's successful promotion play-off campaign.


In January 1990 he was honoured with an MBE by the Queen for his services to rugby league. In October 2005, he was inducted into the Rugby Football League Hall of Fame.[17]

Outside rugby leagueEdit

In 2009 Hanley was one of thirteen celebrities taking part in Dancing on Ice, partnered with Frankie Poultney. He was the sixth person to be eliminated from the show.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b "England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". englandrl.co.uk. 31 December 2017. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.com". englandrl.co.uk. 31 December 2017. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Coach Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Jamaica's brave new world". The Yorkshire Post. 10 March 2005. Archived from the original on 7 January 2017.
  6. ^ Willacy, Gavin (28 January 2020). "Wigan kick off the new Super League season buoyed by young talent". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b Wigan Warriors Official Website Archived 17 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine Ellery Hanley MBE article. URL retrieved 5 August 2006.
  8. ^ a b c Bradford Bulls Official Website Archived 27 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine Bull Masters – Ellery Hanley article. URL retrieved 5 August 2006.
  9. ^ "Doncaster plight tempts Hanley to coach again". The Independent. 15 December 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  10. ^ Demsteader, Christine (1 October 2000). "Rugby League's home from home". BBC Sport. UK: BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
  11. ^ a b c "A few drinks with Ellery Hanley" article. URL retrieved 5 August 2006.
  12. ^ McGregor, Adrian (1991). Simply the Best: The 1990 Kangaroos. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press. p. 160. ISBN 0702223700.
  13. ^ MacDonald, John (29 June 1988). "Tigers sign Hanley for last Rounds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  14. ^ Coady, Ben (28 September 2009). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  15. ^ Blackshaw, Ian Stewart (2002). Mediating sports disputes: national and international perspectives. Cambridge University Press. p. 86. ISBN 9789067041461.
  16. ^ "BBC SPORT – Rugby League – Hanley appointed Doncaster coach". bbc.co.uk. 14 December 2007.
  17. ^ news.bbc.co.uk (17 October 2005). "Hanley given Hall of Fame honour". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 2 January 2010.

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Mal Reilly
Great Britain

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Shaun McRae
St Helens RFC

Succeeded by
Ian Millward
Preceded by
John Stankevitch (interim)
Doncaster RLFC

Succeeded by
Tony Miller
Preceded by Rugby league transfer record

  Bradford Northern

Succeeded by
Preceded by Rugby league transfer record


Succeeded by