A CELEBRATION of wing legend John Atkinson’s life will take place at Leeds Rhinos’ Headingley Stadium later this month.
Atkinson, who died two days before Christmas, aged 71, was one of Leeds’ greatest players and among the finest wingers in rugby league history.
He is the club’s second-highest try scorer, with 340 from 1966-82 and only three players have bettered his 518 appearances for Leeds.
A family funeral service will take place at St Chad’s Church, Otley Road, Headingley at 12.30pm on Friday, January 19.
With capacity limited at the church, the service is for the family and Atkinson’s friends, but fans are invited to attend a special ‘Celebration of John’s Life’ in the Headingley Pavilion from 1.45pm that afternoon.
A Rhinos statement said: “At the request of John’s family members, this will be a very informal occasion with a few words from Carol [his wife] and others who were close to John and a buffet tea will be served.”
A minute’s silence was held in Atkinson’s memory before Rhinos’ Boxing Day win at Wakefield Trinity and the first home game of the new season, against Hull KR at Elland Road on Thursday, February 8, will be dedicated to the Leeds-born icon.
The club statement added: “This will include a special tribute to John who achieved legendary status throughout his 17-year playing career at the club.
“As part of the celebration, the matchday programme will be dedicated to John with lots of memories and photos from his career.”
A policeman during his playing days, Atkinson excelled at various sports, including athletics and boxing, as a schoolboy and played rugby union for Roundhay before joining Leeds in May, 1965.
He went on to feature in 20 finals – winning 16 – and earned 26 Great Britain caps, plus 11 for England.