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Steve Booth: The Yorkshire flier

By TigersTart
October 25 2002

Steve Booth joined Tigers in the summer of 2000, one of the many former rugby league players converting to play rugby union.

The Yorkshireman with a cocky attitude, Booth took up his position on the wing and translated lessons learnt from league into scoring tries and winning matches, to become Tigers joint top try scorer at the end of the 2001-2002 season.

TigersTart thought it was about time to get the low down on the player and style conscious winger, who makes a significant contribution to the League and European Cup winners.

Profile
Name: Steve Booth
Nickname: Stevie, Boothie, Mr. Swagger Man, Silver Boots, Goldie
DOB: 18 September 1976
Position: Wing
Height: 5'8" (1.73m)
Weight: 12st 5lbs (78kg)
App: 32 + 8 (17 tries, 3 cons, 3 pens and 2 dgs) [17 Oct 2002]
Previous Clubs: Oulton ARL, Huddersfield Giants RL, Doncaster Dragons RL, Leicester
Caps: England "A"

Early years
Whilst at primary and secondary school, Steve played rugby union for 7 years at scrum-half. However, being brought up around Castleford, which was a rugby league dominated area, union was replaced by league; so Booth switched his focus, as league was a more natural choice.

Rugby League
As a utility back, Booth represented Yorkshire and though that exposure, he was involved in the Great British Rugby League Academy. After finishing his A-Levels, Steve's first rugby league club was Oulton ARL. In 1995, Booth moved to Huddersfield. During 5 seasons with Huddersfield, Steve made his Super League debut in 1998 and topped 100 appearances. Alternating between scrum-half or fly-half, he found it hard to establish himself, as foreign stars were brought into either No.9 or No.10 and he became disgruntled.

Seeking a new challenge, Booth moved to Doncaster Dragons in 2000, where he made 18 appearances and scored 17 tries, as well as helping the team finish in 4th place in the Northern Ford Premiership. A thinker with a fast pace and an attitude that has overcome his small size, Steve's playing style has mesmerised the opposition and characterised him as a player to watch out for.

Tigers
Given a new life and a new position at Tigers, Booth has flourished. Back in the spring of 2000, Steve's agent sent a video around rugby union clubs and Leicester offered him a week's trail. With the hard work he put in during the trail, as well as good words from both Richards and Howard, Leicester offered him a contract and Booth commented that: "If you have an offer from Leicester, why go elsewhere?"(there was also an opening at Bristol).

Steve also felt that "it was a bit of luck to be at Leicester" and "why not go to the biggest rugby union club?" Booth felt that Leicester would also give him a challenge to play with the best team in Britain and it would also be a challenge to break into the side.

Never a man for route one direction, Steve's mazey style of running has often confused the opposition and his pace and ability to get through tackles, has marked him out as a threatening player. On his debut for Tigers, he scored a try against Rotherham and in the return Christmas leg, he played a blinder under misty conditions.

After the code switch and settling into the side, Booth said "I am up to where I am now because of these people (Wells, Richards, Howard and Kafer) and the time they have been willing to give me". In the European Cup campaign of 2001-2002, in a difficult and vital tie away at Perpignan, Steve scored in 66th minute to give a narrow 31-30 victory, which was the path to European glory.

His Leicester team-mates have acknowledged that they have got another character at the club, even one to rival Oz, as Captain Martin Johnson remarked: "Healey is obnoxious but Booth gets in there with jibes". To be fair, Oz did kick Steve on the bum in a ruck, which was his special way of greeting the new boy.

Manager Dean Richards said: "he scores tries out of nothing". Booth's colleagues in the back line acknowledged this, as Leon Lloyd felt "he's in the right place at the right time which does a lot of people's heads in" and Geordan Murphy said: "he can be fiery but he's relaxed and the fans have really taken to him". Steve feels that his job is made a lot easier because "I am very fortunate to play with possibly the best players in the country", as well the players being "top draw".

Above all, Booth maintains that regardless of whatever Tigers have won in the past, then there is always pressure on playing in front of the Welford Road crowd and maintaining a winning record - not wanting to be part of a team who gets beaten at their home - and loyalty to the fans. That's yet another of Steve's trademarks-committment.

League Vs Union
Booth has learnt a lot from both codes and now that he is playing union, he understands that he has to take every chance, as there aren't many. Steve felt that in league, he was involved a lot more in play, "as the hard bit was getting through the 1st line of defence and then its either a one-on-one with the full-back, which 9/10 times you win by support or you beating him yourself", and that he would have involvement in every sixth phase of play.

In union, Booth feels that "once you've broken through the line of defence, then players work harder as you beat one and then another player, and then have the whole chasing pack to beat as they cover". Overall, Booth feels that the two codes are very similar.

Honours
Committed performances on Leicester's wing, along with the knack of scoring, has seen Steve earn a call-up into England's 7s squad and has played two games in England "A" 2002 6-Nations Championship.

Off the field
Defiantly Mr. Showman - surely a competitor to Oz's ego - Booth likes to be the centre of attention, even when he hasn't got the ball. Take his swaggerness in his posture that screams "look at me", his styling, streaks or a bleached mohican look, and his silver or gold boots, Steve has kept up a reputation as stepping out in style.

One thing is for sure is that from the initial week's trial, Booth has cemented Leicester's faith in him, as he has proved to be a fast finisher, someone who terrifies defences (and is not afraid of the bigger player) and a match winner. His work rate, fast hands and a mazey style of running that confuses the defence -a trait from his rugby league days - has made Steve into a key member of Tigers pack, as well providing TT with many style tips!


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