Leeds Rhinos nostalgia: Loiners beat Salford on cricket pitch – after rugby field left frozen

Vic Hey.
Vic Hey.
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QUIZ QUESTION: Who is the only man to score a try and a century on both sides of Headingley Stadium and at Sydney Cricket Ground?

The answer to that is legendary forward Arthur Clues, who was capped for Australia before joining Leeds in the harsh winter of 1947.

Another cricket-related rugby league question is: Who is the only player to score a competitive try on Headingley’s cricket field?

That was another Australian great, Vic Hey, whose unique feat was achieved in bizarre circumstances on Christmas Eve, 1938.

Leeds were due to play Salford at Headingley at the start of a busy festive period which also included games against Wakefield Trinity at Belle Vue on Boxing Day, at home to Batley the following afternoon and against Widnes on Headingley on New Year’s Eve.

Leeds’ ground staff were confident they could get the pitch ready in time for the December 24 fixture, despite days of snow and frost before the match, but they had a back-up plan. On the morning of the game, the rugby portion of the stadium was deemed unplayable, while on the other side of the main stand, the cricket pitch, was in near-perfect condition, under a blanket of straw which had been laid as a precaution.

Forty men were drafted in to remove the snow and straw, a pitch was marked out – just four yards short of full length – from the main stand to the Kirkstall Lane end and an estimated 15,000 fans turned up to see history made.

The hard work paid off for Leeds, who – attacking the rugby stand end in the first half – won the game 5-0.

The opening points were scored by full-back Jack Kelly, who landed a first-half penalty goal.

Shortly before the interval Hey, rated as one of Australia’s greatest-ever stand-offs, stepped through Salford’s otherwise watertight defence for an unconverted try from Dai Jenkins’ pass.

Leeds went on to win 5-4 at Wakefield two days later and they defeated Batley by the same score, before a 7-7 draw with Widnes in their final game of the year.


Leeds 5

(Try: Hey. Goal: Kelly.)

Salford 0

December 24, 1938

Leeds: Kelly, E Harris, F Harris, Evans, Smith, Hey, Jenkins, Prosser, Murphy, Wheatley, Dyer, Jubb, Tattersfield.

Salford: Osbaldestin, Hudson, Miller, Risman, Edwards, Gear, Watkins, Davies, Day, Bradbury, Dalton, Thomas, Feetham.

Referee: F Fairhurst (Wigan).