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‘He stood out in every way’ - emotional tributes at funeral of Leeds rugby hero John Atkinson

Celebration of Rhinos legend John Atkinson's life following the church funeral servic at  the Headingley Pavilion. 1978 Challenge Cup final captain David Ward speaks.'19th January 2017.  Photos: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Celebration of Rhinos legend John Atkinson's life following the church funeral servic at the Headingley Pavilion. 1978 Challenge Cup final captain David Ward speaks.'19th January 2017. Photos: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Past teammates, supporters and officials gathered to pay their final respects to one of rugby league’s greatest talents at the funeral of Leeds legend John Atkinson.

Atkinson, who died just before Christmas aged 71, was Leeds’ second-highest try scorer with 340, and only three players have made more than his 518 appearances for the club.

John Atkinson's wife Carol speaks at the Rhinos legend's funeral service.

John Atkinson's wife Carol speaks at the Rhinos legend's funeral service.

St Chad’s Church was packed for yesterday’s service before a memorial at nearby Headingley Stadium which Atkinson - who was also an England and Great Britain international - graced from 1966-82.

Atkinson’s wing combination with Alan Smith was at the heart of Leeds’ success in the 1960s and 70s when they were the dominant force in the game.

Speaking at the service, an emotional Smith, who was one of the pall bearers, told the congregation: “We had a special relationship that lasted 52 years from the very first training session when I decided to be a right-winger.

“My life will never be the same without the main character.”

Former team mates, from left, David Ward, Les Dyl, Alan Smith and Bryan Murrell.

Former team mates, from left, David Ward, Les Dyl, Alan Smith and Bryan Murrell.

Atkinson, who leaves a widow Carol, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and a collection was made for Over the Rainbow Care Services.

Donations can be made at https://john-barry-atkinson.muchloved.com.

Family, friends and fans remember.

Family, friends and fans remember.

John Atkinson

John Atkinson