AUSTRALIAN SIGNING Mitch Garbutt is the 1,419th player to make an appearance for Leeds since rugby league began 120 years ago.
The Leeds Rhinos Foundation heritage committee has allocated a number to every player who has featured for the club since its opening fixture in the Northern Union away to Leigh on September 7, 1895.
Bob Armstrong has been awarded No 1, with No 1,419 going to Garbutt, who made his Leeds Rhinos debut in a home win over St Helens in July.
“This is an absolutely invaluable historical record and tells the history of the club through those that have enthralled by their deeds,” said heritage committee chairman Phil Caplan.
“Originally we envisaged this taking up to five years to compile and verify, but the tremendous research undertaken predominantly by Dave Makin, assisted by Peter Benson, has meant that not only have we been able to do it in the 125th year of Headingley being opened, but also the 120th anniversary of the birth of the sport.”
Armstrong was 26 when he played in Leeds’ first game of what later became rugby league.
He began, aged 15, with junior club Burley Hornet and later played for Westfield Rovers, before being signed by the Leeds ‘A’ team. Other notable numbers are: Bob Walton, who scored the first try at Headingley in the Northern Union (14), Joseph Aloysius Lavery (215), the club’s first overseas signing; First World War hero Samuel ‘Billy’ Jarman (225); Arthur Clues (847), Benjamin Lewis Jones (896); the club’s first player-coach Syd Hynes (1,000); leading appearance-maker John Holmes (1,022) and Garry Schofield (1,183).
Caplan added: “The most intriguing number is 655, the only ‘A N Other’ in the list.
“His sole appearance was at York on November 29, 1941 when Leeds turned up a player short as a result of call ups for the war.
“A soldier from the crowd volunteered to play, began at scrum-half, ended on the wing and disappeared after the game without leaving his name, never to be seen or heard of again.
“We would love to fill in that gap.”
Leeds’s oldest surviving player, Frank ‘Shanks’ Watson, is No 865 and Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has No 1,093.
“As a former player, I know how much this number means and what an honour it is,” Hetherington said. “It is a massively valuable part of the history of Leeds and we will be holding a number of events in concert with the Leeds Rhinos Players’ Association and our president Harry Jepson to present certificates to all the players still living and their descendants.”
Kevin Sinfield (1,298), Jamie Peacock (1,355) and Kylie Leuluai (1,363) will be presented with their certificates after Friday’s game against New Zealand at Headingley, along with past players Adrian Morley (1,266) and Ali Lauitiiti (1,347), who are set to make guest appearances in the match.