Leeds Rhinos: Challenge Cup winners first into the hall of fame

Keith McLellan.
Keith McLellan.
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MEMBERS OF the 1957 and 1977 Challenge Cup-winning teams have become the first players inducted into Leeds Rugby League’s hall of fame.

Lewis Jones, Keith McLellan, John Holmes and David Ward are the initial names on what is intended to be a roll call of the club’s greatest servants.

David Ward.

David Ward.

The honour was handed out at a reunion dinner last night to mark the 60th anniversary of Leeds’ Wembley triumph against Barrow – when McLellan captained a team which also included Jones – and 40 years since Holmes and Ward helped beat Widnes.

Rhinos plan to hold a celebration every year to mark a significant anniversary, when four more players will be inducted to the hall of fame.

All members must have played at least 150 first-team games for Leeds, made an exceptional contribution to rugby in the city, achieved representative honours during their playing career and been retired for a minimum of five years.

McLellan, an Australian centre, scored 69 tries and five goals in 215 games for Leeds in the 1950s.

He also represented Combined Nationalities and, at 86, is believed to be Leeds’ oldest surviving ex-player.

He flew from Melbourne to attend the reunion, but only learned of his entry into the hall of fame at last night’s dinner.

Jones, also a centre, played for Great Britain and Wales and scored 2,920 points and 1,244 goals – both club records until being overtaken by Kevin Sinfield – in 385 games.

Stand-off Holmes and hooker Ward both won every available honour with Leeds and also played for Great Britain, England and Yorkshire.

Holmes, who died in 2009, made a club record 625 appearances, over a period of three decades.

Ward was Leeds’ most successful captain before Sinfield, is fifth on Leeds’ list of appearances, with 482 and also coached the club.

Nominees were suggested by Rhinos’ heritage committee and ratified by the club’s board.

Heritage committee chairman Phil Caplan described the hall of fame as an “historic landmark for the club”.

He said: “Leeds has never had anything formal to recognise the contribution of players.

“The Yorkshire Evening Post and club programme have run polls on who the best players are and things like that, but this is a fitting way of marking the contribution of the greatest.

“When the South Stand at Headingley is developed it will become a heritage hub for the club and there will be a physical manifestation of the hall of fame.

“We will be inducting four members per year for the next five years and then more names will be introduced as appropriate. It is something that will be set in stone at the club forever.”

Caplan said the first four names are not necessarily the club’s greatest quartet. He added: “We are not in any way ranking players in the hall of fame.

“We aren’t passing judgement on who is the best. Eventually everyone who fulfils the criteria will be included.

“The first four tie in with the anniversaries we are celebrating this week and it was too good an opportunity not to include Keith McLellan.

“He lives in Australia so while he is over here it is the perfect time to celebrate his contribution.”

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