ONE OF Leeds’ top amateur rugby league clubs is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
East Leeds, who play in National Conference Division Two, have gone from one under-11s team to running 17 different age groups for male and female players from four years old to open age.
More than 60 players have progressed from East Leeds to the professional ranks, including Leeds Rhinos legend Danny McGuire – an eight-time Grand Final champion – and 1999 Lance Todd Trophy winner Leroy Rivett.
Since 2012 the number of registered female players at the club has risen from eight to more than 100 and East Leeds products currently in Super League include Leeds Rhinos captain Lois Forsell and Castleford’s Kelsey Gentles.
Club spokesman Malcolm Waite said: “Whilst the pinnacle for any player is to play representative or professional rugby, East Leeds is founded on the many players who want to play their rugby at club level and we have approaching 350 players registered.
“The success of our club is down to the hard work of these players and the many coaches, volunteers, supporters, parents and sponsors who work tirelessly on and off the field to make the club what it is today, echoing the club motto ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.”
Easts was founded by Glenn Davis and Rod Keeligan in 1979.
Initially based out of Davis’ home, with meetings at the Black Dog pub, the club later moved to East Leeds WMC in Easy Road.
Waite recalled: “In the early days there were no separate changing rooms, so the players had to change in the concert room upstairs and use the showers that had been installed in the gents’ toilet. This was how they managed to run the teams for three years before they raised enough funds to have the original changing rooms built behind the club, which remain in use today.”
The clubhouse and pitch were developed until 2008 when the WMC closed. Then-chairman Peter Longbottom led efforts to keep the club afloat and after two years playing at Fearnville Sports Centre, with a base at Harehills Pigeon Club, Easts purchased their original building and returned to Easy Road in 2010.