Cross-coder: The only Edinburgh player in Scotland's Rugby League World Cup squad
The utility player once gave up his job in Edinburgh to spend a season playing semi-professionally for Australia’s Moor Park Broncos, a feeder side for the legendary South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Now the only representative from the Edinburgh Eagles club in a 24-man Scottish squad, Clarke is hoping to force his way into the match-day line-up when Scotland take on defending champions Australia as well as group opponents Italy and Fiji.
“That season in Australia helped develop me as a player and games like that against their full international side are an opportunity to see how you stand,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity not just individually but to help grow rugby league domestically.”
Clarke, who also plays rugby union at centre for the Lasswade club, has caught the eye of leading sides in the past nearer home. “When I got man-of-the-match in a Scotland under-18 team who beat England a few years ago I was offered trials in the north of England. The timing wasn’t great, though, as I had just started an apprenticeship with Scottish Power.”
He currently works as an electricity linesman, a job undertaken at one time by Scotland Union cap record holder, Jim Renwick.
So, Clarke stayed put apart from that year in Australia and has played his part in growing the domestic game, winning three caps and leading the Eagles to regular successes.
The current Scotland team, who are due to finalise preparations today with a match against England’s second-string Knights, are an eclectic lot drawn from the antipodes, England and France.
“There are certainly a few different accents in the dressing room” says Clarke, “but don’t be in any doubt about the desire to do parents and grand-parents proud. Everyone of our matches will be shown live on BBC television, so there will be no hiding places.”
There is certainly “no hiding place” for Clarke rugby-wise as one rugby code follows another. “Playing all year round is something I have become used to and enjoy,” he explains. “Of course there are variations in tactics and so on but you soon settle into things.”
Understandably Clarke is focusing totally on the Rugby League World Cup which had to be postponed last year due to Covid with first priority the fixture against English Knights.
“Knights will be made up of a lot of players keen to prove a point after missing out on the full England squad,” he added. “We have to take them very seriously and the same goes for Italy and Fiji in the tournament itself.”
Meanwhile, Hector MacNeill, boss of Scotland’s main sponsor, HANetf, says: “I don’t see any reason why the team can’t make it to at least the quarter-final and beyond.”
Clarke agrees: “We’ll certainly be giving it our best shot” he says.
Sunday October 16 v Italy (Newcastle); Friday October 21 v Australia (Coventry); Saturday October 29 v Fiji (Newcastle).