Leeds class of 1961 were the greatest ever - Rosenberg

Wilf Rosenberg from the 1961 Leeds RL team, with Franny Cummins.
Wilf Rosenberg from the 1961 Leeds RL team, with Franny Cummins.
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CHAMPION Wilf Rosenberg believes the Leeds team in which he made his name could be the club’s greatest-ever.

The South African winger – known in his playing days as the Flying Dentist – is back in the city for a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary of Leeds becoming rugby league champions for the first time.

Rosenberg scored a post-war record 44 tries during the 1960-61 season, which culminated in an historic 25-10 triumph over Warrington in the Championship final at Bradford’s Odsal Stadium, on May 20, 1961.

Leeds have gone on to win the title on another six occasions, in 1968-69, 1971-72, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Surviving members of the 1961 side – along with some of their Warrington counterparts – celebrated the anniversary at a dinner at Headingley yesterday.

They will also be present tonight, when Leeds Rhinos take on Warrington Wolves in an Engage Super League showdown.

Rosenberg, 77, who now lives in Israel, admitted he has not followed rugby league since his time at the club, when he was also a dental student in Leeds.

Wonderful

But he said: “It is really good to be back and it is wonderful meeting my old team-mates again. I regarded them as a really great side.

“I have not seen rugby league for the last 50 years, but if there was a better side in rugby league than the Leeds side I played in, they must be genuiuses.

“Every position was strong. It was wonderful to play in such a strong side.

“They used to set me up and all I had to do was run.”

Rosenberg did not cross the whitewash in the final, but scored two tries – including a spectacular match-clinching effort – in the semi-final win over St Helens at Headingley.

He regards that as the best memory from his spell in blue and amber.

“St Helens were a great side,” he recalled. “Beating them was a great pleasure.

“What I particularly remember – apart from the two tries I scored – was the work Eddie Ratcliffe did to blot out Tom Van Vollenhoven, who was top leading scorer that year and was a great friend of mine.

“Eddie harassed him and got him right out of the game. Leeds rose to the occasion and it was a great honour to beat St Helens.

“It felt great and we knew we were going to beat Warrington, because St Helens were a really powerful side, along with Wigan.”

Rosenberg passed on some tips to a new generation of rugby players when he attended a training session at the North Leeds Leopards junior club, in Moortown, to present their player of the week awards.

He also met up with another ex-Leeds winger, Francis Cummins, whose son Mitch plays for the Leopards.

Rosenberg said: “The young guys were so attentive and keen to learn. It would be fantastic to think we were watching a future star for Headingley.

“I met some old fans who said some very nice things about my time here and it was incredible that so many of the young guys wanted my autograph.”

Luke Gale.

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