Watson, Stevenson, Seabourne, Adams Dick, Sheridan or Burrow? it’s a tough call as Peter Smith explains
BORN in January, 1923, Frank Watson is believed to be the oldest surviving former Leeds player.
Known as Shanks, he was from south of the river and joined Hunslet as a 17-year-old in September, 1940.
Though he could play anywhere in the backs, he was primarily a scrum-half. Called for a Great Britain trial in 1946, he famously worked a night shift as a bus conductor, rushed to Central Park, Wigan, to play in the match, then returned straight to Leeds to go back on another all-night shift.
When he lost his position at scrum-half, he shifted to centre and Leeds saw their chance, swooping to sign him in September, 1949.
His debut was....against Hunslet at Parkside just two days later. The first many fans knew of the move was when Watson jogged out wearing blue and amber.
Watson starred for Leeds for two years before his place was taken by Jeff Stevenson, who was a hero at Headingley from 1952-59.
Leeds-born, he was at first considered too small to play professional rugby league, but after starring for the RAF’s rugby union side against the Royal Navy at Twickenham, during his National Service, Leeds moved in to sign him in February, 1952.
He went on to make 228 appearances for Leeds, scoring 67 tries and four drop goals. One of those was among the most famous in the club’s history – sending the Loiners to Wembley in 1957 as they edged past Whitehaven in an epic semi-final at Odsal.
every vote cast (by registering and leaving your comment choice below) gives you the chance of winning a quite fantastic prize.
IN partnership with Leeds Rhinos, we are offering one lucky reader a table of 10 in the Headingley Executive Suite for any Rhinos home game during the 2013 season (subject to the availability of a game held after the competition closing date).
don’t FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT UNDER THE STORY TO STAKE YOUR CLAIM FOR THE PRIZE. NO NEED FOR AN ADDRESS - YOUR SITE NICKNAME WILL DO.
Stevenson – who was tough, quick and had dazzling handling skills – went on to star in the Cup final win over Barrow and became Leeds’ first Lance Todd Trophy winner as man of the match.
Made captain in 1958, later that same year he captained Great Britain when they beat the touring Australians in an Ashes series – something nobody has done since.
Barry Seabourne made his Leeds debut as a 16-year-old in 1963 and was promoted to captain when he was 21.
By then he was already a Challenge Cup winner and had won a man-of-the-match honour as Leeds lifted the Yorkshire Cup.
A great leader, Seabourne was captain in 1968/69, when Leeds lost only five of 48 competitive matches. A clever passer, with a tremendous kicking game, he was also a drop goal king, landing 34 during his playing career with Leeds.
He was also brave. In 1969, when Leeds faced Salford in a Championship semi-final, he had to have a dislocated shoulder shoved back into place on four separate occasions.
He was rewarded by becoming the second man to captain Leeds to a Championship triumph, in a bitter final against Castleford at Odsal.
Kevin Dick was known as the Iron Teddy Bear. He made his Challenge Cup debut as a 19-year-old in the 1977 Wembley final against Widnes in tragic circumstances after his rival for the shirt, Chris Sanderson, had died during a league game at Salford.
Dick was up against formidable opposition in Reg Bowden, but outplayed his opposite number, scored a brilliant solo try and kicked three goals and a drop.
He came off the bench the following year to help Leeds to another Cup final triumph, against St Helens – which was also his first appearance in that season’s tournament.
No other player can claim that his first two Challenge Cup ties were both finals at Wembley and that he got a winner’s medal from each of them.
Arguably his finest performance came in 1979 when he kicked eight goals in a Premiership final victory over Bradford Northern and took home the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match.
His drop goal gave Leeds victory over Hull KR in the 1981 Yorkshire Cup final and he also helped Leeds to victory over Widnes in a John Player Trophy decider in 1984, scoring the decisive try.
After Dick’s departure, Leeds struggled for more than a decade to find a settled, quality half-back to fill his boots.
That long-term problem was eventually solved when Rob Burrow arrived on the Super League scene in 2001.
At just 5ft 4ins, he became an instant cult figure and has been one of Super League’s most enduring and amiable personalities.
With more than 370 senior games for Leeds, Burrow is now a member of an elite group and he is also one of the “immortals” as a member of the 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 Grand Final winning sides.
Blessed with electric pace and a superb step, Burrow is a nightmare for bigger opponents to defend against and also tackles over his weight.
A natural try scorer and effective goal kicker, Burrow’s finest hours both came at Old Trafford. In 2007 he was man of the match in the Grand Final win over St Helens, soon after the death of one of his rivals for the title of Leeds’ greatest scrum-half, Jeff Stevenson.
Four years later, coming off the bench as a replacement hooker, he was a unanimous winner of the same Harry Sunderland award.
Other players you may wish to consider include Evan Williams, Les Adams, Dai Jenkins’ Keith Hepworth and Ryan Sheridan.