DESCRIBED IN press reports at the time he signed for Leeds as “one of the most exciting players outside Super League” Karl Pratt had a varied career which included incredible highs and depressing lows.
A Hunslet Parkside product, Pratt – who was born on July 13, 1980 – began to make his name as a winger for Featherstone Rovers, scoring five tries in 15 appearances in his debut 1997 campaign before crossing for 25 touchdowns from 33 games the following year.
In 1998 he was a runner-up in the first Division One Grand Final, when Rovers were pipped by Wakefield Trinity.
That was his final game for Rovers as Leeds signed him for a fee worth up to £150,000. He had trained with Leeds as a 15-year-old, but wasn’t taken on.
“Karl is the hottest young property in the British game, with a flair for try-scoring,” coach Graham Murray said when Pratt was unveiled as a Rhinos player in November, 1998.
Tipped as a future Test stand-off, Pratt made his debut as a substitute in a home defeat by Wigan in March, 1999.
That was the first of 74 appearances for Leeds, which produced 33 tries.
Pratt earned an England call-up against Wales in 2001 and was capped for Great Britain against Australia the following year.
He was a try scorer – playing on the wing outside his Leeds team-mate Keith Senior – in a record 64-10 loss to Australia in a one-off, mid-season Test in Sydney.
That autumn he kept his place for the first Test against New Zealand, at Ewood Park, Blackburn, but had a poor game and was dropped from the side.
At the end of the 2002 domestic season he was told he did not figure in Leeds’ future plans, but was quickly snapped up by Bradford Bulls.
He was a substitute for Bulls in their 2003 Challenge Cup final win over Rhinos and played at stand-off when they beat Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford later in the year.
He was a member of the Bulls team which defeated Penrith Panthers in the following year’s World Club Challenge and also featured in that season’s Grand Final loss to his old club.
A shoulder injury suffered in a Challenge Cup tie for Leeds against Hull, in 2001, bothered him for the rest of his career and in 2005 he was forced to announce his retirement from the game, aged just 25.
He said at the time: “I am devastated at having to leave the game, but the specialist’s advice has to be adhered to and it has left me no other option.”