Tributes to Leeds legend John Atkinson, 71

John Atkinson.
John Atkinson.
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LEEDS RHINOS are mourning the death of one of the club’s greatest players, John Atkinson, who passed away on Saturday aged 71.

Atkinson was the second highest try scorer in the club’s history, with 340 and only three players have made more appearances for Leeds.

A graceful runner and outstanding finisher, Atkinson was a key member of the Loiners’ successful teams in the 1960s and 70s and formed a memorable wing partnership with his close friend Alan Smith.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington who played alongside him at Leeds, said: “He was a legendary player and a very special player and a special person.

“He was one of those players who could win a game with a special piece of magic.”

Atkinson scored tries in Leeds’ Challenge Cup victories at Wembley in 1968, 1977 and 1978, the Championship Finals of 1969 and 1972, the 1975 Premiership decider, John Player final in 1973 and numerous Yorkshire Cups.

His international career spanned 12 years from 1968-80 and he played in four World Cups.

Signed from Roundhay Rugby Union, he played 518 times for his hometown club from 1968-82 before a spell with Carlisle.

His wife Carol spoke recently about his struggle with dementia. The Rhinos team will wear black arm bands during the Boxing Day game at Wakefield Trinity and the club have requested a minute’s silence before kick-off in his memory.

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