Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Injuries led to some brief encounters at Leeds

INJURIES ARE part and parcel of rugby league, but sometimes they can bring a promising career to an end.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 6:00 am

Sadly, for him and the club, Grand Final-winning prop Dom Crosby never really got an opportunity to show Leeds fans what he was capable of after joining Rhinos from Warrington Wolves in the summer of 2018.

The former Wigan front-rower made seven appearances, five in the starting side, including Leeds’ final game of the season, a loss to Toronto Wolfpack in the middle-eight Qualifiers on September 28, but that proved to be his swan song.

He was troubled by ankle and knee injuries the following pre-season and did not play in 2019.

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Nathan Picchi goes past Mark Aston on his debut for Leeds against Sheffield Eagles at Headingley. Picture: Steve Riding.

Before the current campaign he was confident of being on the mend, but the injury curse would not lift and Crosby has now announced he will retire at the end of 2020.

Crosby is not the first player whose Leeds career was brought to an early halt.

One of the most famous examples was Warrington-born hardman Alan Rathbone.

Capped six times by Great Britain in the 1980s, Rathbone – who died in 2016 – played for Leigh in two spells, Rochdale Hornets, Bradford Northern and his hometown club.

Bradley Clyde. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

He joined Leeds for a £35,000 transfer fee in pre-season ahead of the 1987-88 season and made his debut in the opening league game of the campaign, at home to Leigh, but suffered a serious jaw injury in the first half and never played again.

Kiwi forward Nathan Picchi had a similarly short Leeds career, making one substitute appearance in the inaugural 1996 Super League campaign.

Having played 33 times for Hawkes Bay Unicorns in his home country’s domestic competition, Picchi was highly-rated by Leeds coach Dean Bell, who regarded him as a tough, ball-playing loose-forward.

Picchi made his debut against Sheffield Eagles at Headingley on April 21 and was a member of the first Leeds team to win a Super League game, but that was as good as it got for the New Zealander, whose afternoon was cut short by a dislocated shoulder. That was his only appearance for Leeds.

Leeds Rhinos' Brett Mullins hands off Wayne English in 2001. Picture: Mark Bickerdike.

In 2000, Australian recruit Paul Bell played four times before sustaining a dislocated shoulder in a Challenge Cup tie against Dewsbury Rams and being released from his contract.

The following year, two of Australia’s biggest names managed only 27 games between them.

Bradley Clyde, capped 21 times for his country, was 31 when Rhinos signed him, but managed only eight starts and seven games off the bench before heading home midway through his two-year contract.

Clyde showed his class when he made it on to the field, but was bothered by an Achilles problem throughout his time at Leeds and didn’t play again.

Leeds Rhinos' Mark O'Neill pictured in 2006. Picture: Steve Riding.

Brett Mullins was a similar story, starting nine games and being a substitute in three more. Another former Kangaroo, he sustained damage to a biceps in only his second game for Rhinos and spent most of the campaign in the treatment room before heading home at the end of that year.

Remarkably, back in Australia he joined Sydney Roosters, scored 17 tries in 26 games and helped them to victory in the 2002 Grand Final.

Leeds’ third Aussies signing for 2001 was hooker Robbie Mears. He fractured his collarbone in the first half of his debut – a record 106-10 Challenge Cup win at Swinton Lions, returned to play a total of 24 games, but headed home after suffering an horrific facial injury in Rhinos’ penultimate league game.

Mark O’Neill, a forward signed from West Tigers, needed shoulder surgery after being hurt just five minutes into his first game, the 2005 Boxing Day fixture against Wakefield.

His Leeds career totalled two starts and nine games as substitute before he moved on to Hull KR.

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Robbie Mears making his debut for Leeds against Halifax in 2000. Picture: Steve Riding.

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