Remembering when acting legend Dennis Waterman captained Hunslet's rugby league side

Actor Dennis Waterman, who has died aged 74, was most famous for his tough guy roles in The Sweeney and Minder, but did you know he also played one of Leeds' greatest sporting heroes?

By Peter Smith
Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:59 pm

Waterman starred as Hunslet captain Albert Goldthorpe in a 1988 made-for-television sports film The First Kangaroos.

The movie was based on the pioneering Australian rugby league tour to Great Britain, in 1908-09, which included a 12-11 win over Hunslet at the south Leeds club's Parkside ground.

It also featured real-life Aussie Test star Andrew Ettingshausen - who had two stints as a player for Leeds - as one of the Kangaroo tourists, Albert Conlon.

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Dennis Waterman, right, with John Thaw in a scene from The Sweeney. Picture by PA.

Fellow player Wayne Pearce - father of current Catalans Dragons stand-off Mitchell Pearce - was also in the film.

Though Waterman was praised for his performance, the movie received poor reviews and was condemned by Goldthorpe's family, who were horrified at his depiction as a villainous character.

Goldthorpe was portrayed as hard-drinking off the field and vicious on it, knocking out Dally Messenger in one notorious scene.

In fact, Goldthorpe, who died in 1943, was teetotal and one of the most skilful players of rugby league's Northern Union era.

The legendary Albert Goldthorpe.

He played more than 700 games in a 20-year Hunslet career and was the sport's record points scorer when he retired in 1910.

A plaque at South Leeds Stadium in memory of Albert Goldthorpe. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.