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Club History, Facts and Figures

LEEDS were founder members of the Northern Union when it broke away from the Rugby Football Union in 1895.

But the roots of the current Leeds club date back a quarter of a century earlier than that, to the formation of the Leeds St John's club which played at Cardigan Fields, near Headingley.

In 1888 the Cardigan Estate was sold at auction and Lot 17a was purchased by a group of Leeds citizens, who intended to form the city's leading sports club. Lot 17a became what is now Headingley Stadium, one of only a handful of venues in the world to have staged international matches in three different sports - rugby league, union and cricket.

Leeds St John's played their final season under that name in 1889-90, before becoming the football section of Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Co Ltd.

With Headingley still being completed, Leeds' first game was staged at Cardigan Fields, the home side defeating Otley.

The first game at Headingley was played on September 20, 1890, when Manningham were beaten by one try and one dropped goal to nil. Leeds' debut in the Northern Union was a 6-3 success at Leigh on September 7, 1895 - the inaugural day of the new competition.

The club's first major trophy triumph came in 1910, when they won the Northern Union Cup, after beating Hull in a final replay. Blue and amber ribbons have been tied on the Challenge Cup another 10 times since then, including wartime successes in 1941 and 1942 and victory over London Broncos in the last final staged at the old Wembley, in 1999.

That game saw winger Leroy Rivett become the first - and so far only - player to score four tries in a Challenge Cup final and the 52-16 triumph was also a record.

The Headingley club reached the Championship final for the first time in 1915, but were beaten 35-2 by a Huddersfield side who are remembered as one of the greatest teams of all time.

Leeds had to wait until 1961 to be crowned champions for the first time, the great Lewis Jones leading them to an emotional victory over Warrington in the title decider at Odsal.

The Championship trophy returned to Headingley in 1969 and 1972, but Leeds fans then endured an agonising 32-year wait before coach Tony Smith's side claimed the Super League title with a Grand Final triumph over arch-rivals Bradford Bulls.

The Super League triumph means Leeds have now won every available domestic honour, including the Yorkshire Cup a record 17 times from 21 finals. Known as the aristocrats of the game, Leeds have a reputation for signing the best players from throughout the world of rugby league, though in more recent times the emphasis has been on developing home-grown talent - with 10 of the 17-strong Grand Final winning squad having come up through Rhinos' youth system.

Though they have always been regarded as one of the sport's richest clubs, financial worries threatened Leeds' future in the mid-1990s, amid speculation the club were preparing to sell Headingley and move in with Leeds United at Elland Road.

That was avoided when chairman Paul Caddick and chief executive Gary Hetherington took over the club in late 1996. The Rhinos name was adopted the following year.

Role of Honour

Championship winners: 1960-61, 1968-69, 1971-72.

Championship beaten finalists: 1914-15, 1928-29, 1929-30, 1930-31, 1937-38, 1969-70, 1972-73.

Super League champions: 2004.

Super League beaten Grand Finalists: 1998.

League leaders: 1960-61, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1968-69, 1969-70, 1971-72, 2004.

Challenge Cup winners: 1909-10, 1922-23, 1931-32, 1935-36, 1940-41, 1941-42, 1956-57, 1967-68, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1999.

Challenge Cup runners-up : 1942-43, 1946-47, 1970-71, 1971-72, 1993-94, 1994-95, 2000, 2003.

Regal Trophy winners: 1972-73, 1983-84.

Regal Trophy beaten finalists: 1982-83, 1987-88, 1991-92.

Premiership winners: 1974-75, 1978-79.

Premiership beaten finalists: 1994-95.

BBC 2 Floodlit Trophy winners: 1970-71.

Charity shield runners-up: 1995-96.

Yorkshire Cup winners: 1921-22, 1928-29, 1930-31, 1932-33, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1937-38, 1958-59, 1968-69, 1970-71, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1988-89.

Yorkshire Cup beaten finalists: 1919-20, 1947-48, 1961-62, 1964-65.

Yorshire League winners: 1901-02, 1927-28, 1930-31, 1933-34, 1934-35, 1936-37, 1950-51, 1954-55, 1956-57, 1960-61, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1968-69, 1969-70.

FIVE CLASSIC MATCHES

Northern Union Cup final replay

Leeds 26, Hull 12

April 18, 1910 at Fartown, Huddersfield.

Leeds won the Challenge Cup, then the Northen Union Cup, for the first time with a 26-12 victory over Hull in the competition's first final replay.

The Loiners beat Hull KR, Keighley and Warrington before battling back from a 7-2 interval deficit to draw 7-7 with Hull in front of a 19,000 crowd at Huddersfield's Fartown ground - the game kicking off almost an hour late after both teams were delayed due to railway hold ups.

The replay was staged on the same ground two days later, in front of 11,608 fans. Full-back Frank 'Bucket' Young was Leeds' early hero, landing a penalty and a spectacular drop goal before Fred Webster crashed over for the opening try.

H Topham then charged down a kick to go over for the Loiners' second touchdown, Young landing two more goals to open a 16-0 half-time lead.

Walter Goldthorpe ghosted in for Leeds' third try and H Rowe also touched down, Young defying a strong wind to convert both scores before Hull gained some respectability with late tries by Connell and Walton, plus three Rogers goals.

There were dramatic scenes at the final whistle as a Hull fan attempted to attack referee J Priestley and touch judge Mr Kennedy, only to be floored by Leeds prop Topham before being dragged away by police.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Leeds 2, Hunslet 8

April 30, 1938 at Elland Road, Leeds.

In 1938, rugby league's best two teams both came from the city of Leeds.

Hunslet, from south of the river Aire, finished top of the league table, one place ahead of the Loiners of Headingley.

Hunslet qualified for the Championship final with a 13-7 win over Barrow and fans and players of the south Leeds outfit were at Headingley two days later to see Leeds defeat Swinton 5-2, thanks to Eric Harris' late try and Evan Williams' conversion.

The authorities switched the final from the planned venue, Wakefield's Belle Vue, to Elland Road and were rewarded with a record 54,112 crowd - still the biggest for a rugby league game in Leeds.

Hunslet went into the final at full-strength against a Leeds side missing a host of key players and with Vic Hey and Stan Smith both reduced to virtual passengers after being injured in the first-half.

Ted Tattersfield gave Leeds an early lead with a penalty goal, but Hunslet were the better side throughout, leading 6-2 at the break through tries by Ernest Winter and Jimmy O'Sullivan and grabbing the only points of the second-half thanks to Jack Walkington's drop goal.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Leeds 25, Warrington 10

May 20, 1961 at Odsal, Bradford.

It took Leeds an incredible 66 years to be crowned rugby league champions.

The Loiners were beaten Championship finalists an agonising five times, before lifting the Holy Grail after finishing as league leaders for the first time.

Leeds came through an epic semi-final against St Helens at Headingley to qualify for the championship decider against Warrington, in front of 52,177 fans at Odsal.

Superbly led by Lewis Jones and with Jack Fairbank and Dennis Goodwin in inspirational form in the pack and Barry Simms playing the game of his life at hooker, Leeds never looked like being denied this time.

Fairbank crashed over for the opening try, converted by Jones, before Colin Evans darted over from acting-half, the skipper making it 10-0 at the break with the subsequent goal.

Two Derek Hallas tries and another Jones goal made it 18-0 before Warrington hit back, crossing Jim Challinor touching down twice for tries converted by Laurie Gilfedder, either side of a Jones penalty.

Despite leading 20-10 Leeds could not feel safe until Jones, fittingly, capped the club's finest day with a try at the side of the posts, which he also converted.

Leeds' win was dedicated to the memory of former chairman Rex Proctor, who had died in a road accident a few weeks before the final.

CHALLENGE CUP FINAL

Leeds 14, St Helens 12

May 13, 1978 at Wembley.

Leeds retained the Challenge Cup they had won a year earlier with victory in one of the competition's greatest finals.

It was Leeds' 10th Challenge Cup triumph and the second time they had recorded back to back successes, following the wartime victories of 1941 and 1942.

Things looked bleak for the Loiners early on as Saints led 10-0 after 13 minutes and 12-5 at half-time, but a stunning second-half display brought the Cup back to Headingley.

Blond bomber Phil Cookson crashed over for the equalising try with less than 10 minutes left. With five to go maestro John Holmes landed a sensational left-footed drop goal, before skipper David Ward added a similar effort.

In the final seconds Saints almost snatched victory as they created a last-gasp overlap, only for Derek Noonan to knock-on with the line at his mercy on the final play of the game.

Saints had started strongly, Graham Liptrot scoring an early try after a double blunder by Willie Oulton and John Atkinson, before Bill Francis galloped over.

Geoff Pimblett converted both and landed a penalty after Leeds hit back with a magnificent Atkinson try, converted by Oulton. Ward booted a drop goal at the start of the second-half and David Smith cut the deficit further with a well-taken try.

SUPER LEAGUE GRAND FINAL

Leeds Rhinos 16, Bradford Bulls 8

October 16, 2004 at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Leeds had to wait 32 long years to be crowned champions for the fourth time.

After title triumphs in 1961, 1969 and 1972, the Headingley outfit became rugby league's great under-achievers until Aussie boss Tony Smith transformed their fortunes in Super League IX.

The Rhinos, who had failed to reach the Grand Final despite finishing second in the table a year earlier, were the outstanding team throughout 2004, losing just two of their 28 league games to finish a record nine points clear at the end of the regular season.

Defeat by Bradford Bulls in the qualifying final was a set-back, but Rhinos responded with a big win over Wigan in the final eliminator - though Bulls, in their fourth successive final, were confident of retaining their title.

Bulls led briefly through Lesley Vainikolo's try, after Kevin Sinfield had kicked Rhinos off the mark with a penalty goal. Man of the match Matt Diskin scooted over for a superb solo try, Sinfield converting and adding a penalty to make it 10-4 at the break.

Shontayne Hape crossed for Bulls second try straight after the interval and Leeds held a slender two point lead for the next 30 minutes, until Bulls' Robbie Paul knocked on near his own line.

David Furner drove the ball in from the scrum, then Danny McGuire played a one-two with Keith Senior before weaving over for his 39th try of the season, Sinfield's conversion sealing victory and sparking celebrations which lasted for weeks.

TEN LEEDS RL GREATS

ARTHUR CLUES

Australian forward Arthur Clues was one of Leeds' finest-ever imports.

He joined Leeds in 1947, a year after making his Test debut, and went on to score 74 tries in 236 games for the club before a shock move to neighbours Hunslet, though he remained in the city - as owner of a popular sports shop - and never lost his love for the Leeds club.

One of Australian rugby league's toughest products, Clues was a feared opponent who boasted awesome power and subtle skills, including a deft side-step, tremendous acceleration a good kicking game and surprising ability for such a big man.

He was also a noted cricketer at local level - and remains the only man to have scored a try and a century at both Headingley and Sydney Cricket Ground.

BERT COOK

New Zealander Bert Cook booted 556 goals in 210 appearances for Leeds - including a penalty from inside his own half in ankle deep mud in a 1947 Challenge Cup tie at Wigan, which is rated as one of the finest kicks in the club's history.

Cook - famed for his brave running and fearless defence - was spotted by Leeds' management playing for a New Zealand Army rugby union side at Headingley in November 1945 and joined the club two years later.

He set club goals records of 115 in 1949/50 and 150 the following year and was on target 12 times in one game against York in 1949.

Cook left Leeds in 1953 for a spell as player-coach at Keighley and had a similar stint at Dewsbury before retiring in 1958.

ELLERY HANLEY

Leeds-born Ellery Hanley ranks as one of the greatest rugby league players of any generation - from either hemisphere.

Hanley was one of those rare players who could boast every skill in the book, with the ability to make breaks, score tries, tackle and kick goals.

He was at the heart of Great Britain's international revival in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was the key player for Wigan when they were the best side in the world.

He began his career with Bradford Northern before a big money move to Wigan, where he won every honour in the game. He joined Leeds in 1991 and scored an astonishing 106 tries in 104 games, including 41 in 1995, then a world record for a forward.

He left Leeds later that year for a spell in Australia, but returned to England in 1999 to coach St Helens to the Super League title at his first attempt.

Hanley also coached Great Britain during the 1994 Ashes series and had a spell with England's rugby union set-up, before a brief stint as an advisor at Castleford Tigers.

ERIC HARRIS

Known as the Toowoomba Ghost - for his ability to glide past startled opponents - Australian winger Eric Harris was Leeds' greatest try scorer, touching down a club record 391 times in 383 appearances in blue and amber.

Joining Leeds in 1930, Harris' try won the Challenge Cup final against Swinton two years later and he touched down 36 times in 17 consecutive games in 1935-36, on his way to a club record 63 tries in the season.

His nine seasons at Leeds saw him collect 12 winners' medals and a personal haul of 1,208 points, which included 16 goals.

A Carnegie College graduate, Harris settled in Leeds but opted to return to Australia at the outbreak of the second world war.

VIC HEY

Australian stand-off Vic Hey holds a unique record - as the only player to score a try on Headingley's cricket pitch.

The famous touchdown came in a game against Salford on Christmas Eve 1938, which was switched to the cricket field because the rugby pitch was frozen solid.

An Aussie Test star, Leeds paid Hey a record 1,400 signing on fee in 1937, his departure leading to a brief international transfer ban.

A tough tackler and boasting clever ball skills, Hey scored 73 tries in 145 appearances for Leeds, winning two Challenge Cup finals, before stints with Dewsbury and Hunslet. Back in Australia, he coached Parramatta and masterminded the Aussies' 1954 Ashes triumph.

JOHN HOLMES

Local hero John Holmes was, is and will remain Leeds' finest servant. In a career which lasted from 1968 to 1990, Holmes made 625 appearances in blue and amber, a club record which is unlikely ever to be broken.

Blessed with a wonderful kicking game and superb defensive technique, Holmes was a clever runner in his early days as a full-back or centre and a creative genius when he switched to his natural position of stand-off.

Capped 20 times for Great Britain between 1971 and 1982, he was at his best in the epic 1978 Challenge Cup final - his ideal Holmes' exhibition - when his sensational drop goal helped Leeds to a dramatic 14-12 victory over St Helens. Holmes played in 19 finals for Leeds, losing just five and winning every available honour at club level.

LEWIS JONES

Welsh rugby union convert Lewis Jones was Leeds' golden boy, setting a host of club records and skippering the Loiners' to their finest hour - the 1961 Championship triumph.

Leeds tempted Jones - a British Lion in the 15-a-side code - into rugby league with a 6,000 signing on fee in 1952 and that proved money well spent.

In 1956/57 Jones scored 33 tries and 166 goals for Leeds - totalling 431 points - with another three tries and 28 kicks in representative rugby taking him to a record 496 points for the season.

During his 12 seasons at Leeds he averaged 7.5 points per game, finishing his stint with club career records for goals (1,244) and points (2,920).

After leaving Leeds in 1964 he emigrated to Australia to become captain/coach of Wentworthville, though he returned to his adopted home city eight years later. More than 40 years on from his final game, he is still hailed as the club's greatest ever player.

DANNY MCGUIRE

Young stand-off Danny McGuire represents the future of British rugby league.

A product of the East Leeds amateur club, he burst on to the scene in 2003, scoring a brace of tries in Leeds' epic Challenge Cup semi-final win over St Helens.

Dropped for the final, he bounced back the following year to become the country's top half-back, scoring an incredible 39 tries - including the decisive touchdown in Leeds' Grand Final triumph over Bradford Bulls.

Capped by Great Britain for the first time in the 2004 Gillette Tri-Nations, McGuire is Super League's most exciting talent, boasting electric pace, a clever side-step, superb support play and an unerring eye for a gap.

GARRY SCHOFIELD

Holding the joint record for most Great Britain caps, Hunslet-born Garry Schofield was one of the most talented players to wear the Loiners' famous blue and amber.

An amateur international, Schofield began his career with Hull before a world record transfer to Leeds in October, 1987. He moved to Headingley at a low point in the club's fortunes and managed to pick up just one winner's medal - in the 1989 Yorkshire Cup final - despite being consistently one of the British game's top performers.

King of the interception, he developed into a fine all-round player, with a great kicking game and superb passing skills. Schofield made 250 appearances for Leeds, scoring 147 tries, before a shock move to Huddersfield in 1996, later having a spell as the Giants' player-coach.

FRED WEBSTER

Record-breaking prop-forward Fred Webster was Leeds rugby league's first superstar.

Webster joined Leeds from Brotherton in 1902, on the eve of his 20th birthday, and was a mainstay of the side for the next 18 years.

When he eventually hung up his boots, he had made an incredible 543 appearances - a club record which stood for more than 60 years. To date, only John Holmes has played more games for Leeds.

Webster captained Leeds to their first Challenge Cup triumph, notching a try in the final replay win over Hull in 1910, and scored a club record eight tries in the 102-0 win over Coventry in 1913.

Webster was capped three times for Great Britain in 1910.

*Extracts from 100 Greats Leeds Rugby League Football Club. Published by Tempus.

 
 
 

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