LEEDS rugby league’s last major signing from the 15-a-side game returned to Headingley Carnegie, almost exactly 19 years after crossing codes.
Winger Jim Fallon – scorer of 74 tries in 140 appearance from 1992-96 – was an interested observer at Leeds Rhinos’ 20-0 win over Hull.
That was his first visit to his old stamping ground for more than a decade, but the former Bath flier, who now lives in Teignmouth, south Devon, revealed he is still a Leeds fan at heart.
The 46-year-old was a guest of one of his old Leeds team-mates, Neil Harmon, at last week’s game and he said: “I was up visiting my sister, who lives in Liverpool, and I thought I would come over, see Neil and catch a game.
“I haven’t seen the Rhinos play (ive) for a while, but I watch on the telly when I can.
“It (Headingley) has changed a lot. There have been a lot of developments around the ground – I wouldn’t have recognised it – but it was nice to be back.”
Speaking of his time at Leeds, Fallon – who sacrificed England prospects in union to change codes – said: “I loved it. The first year I found really hard; coming from union it was a culture shock and learning a new game wasn’t the easiest.
“But once I settled in, I got to know all the guys, the team improved and I really enjoyed it.”
Fallon was one of the final high-profile union players to turn professional at a league club. The 15-a-side game abandoned its amateur policy soon afterwards and, like a host of others, he then went back to his roots, a move he admits was mainly made for financial reasons.
“I would have quite happily stayed but, at the end of the day, I got a good offer from union,” he said. “Leeds were going through a hard time and I think they offered me less money than I was on, but I was very happy here.
“I was here five seasons, including the short season before Super League. When I went from union to league I never thought I would go back, but I ended up playing back at Bath, where I started.”
No longer involved with rugby, of either code. Fallon explained: “After I left Leeds I played for Richmond for a couple of years, then I joined Bath.
“I was only there for six months. I got a detached retina and that was it. I was 34 and I wasn’t getting any faster.”
Fallon was a team-mate of Rhinos’ current assistant-coach James Lowes – who he exchanged handshakes with before Friday’s match – and confirmed he still keeps in touch with some of the players from his era.
“I haven’t seen Jimmy for about 11 years,” he said. “It’s that long since I was last up here, but I still keep in touch with some of the Kiwis, Craig Innes and Kevin Iro.
“I’m still in touch with Neil Harmon as well and it was good to see him and to get back up to a game. I really enjoyed it.”
Fallon’s visit brought Rhinos luck as they recorded their first win in four matches and kept a clean sheet, a feat they hadn’t achieved since August 2009.
“They have been struggling a bit,” said Fallon, who signed for Leeds – under manager Doug Laughton, a renowned spotter of rugby union talent – on July 6, 1992.
“I don’t know why that is, but having been watching them on the telly over the last few years, it has been great to see them win some silverware.
“I am sure they will get back on song before too long.”
Right-winger Ryan Hall scored the first of Rhinos’ three tries against Hull, while Zak Hardaker continued to impress on the opposite flank.
“Ryan Hall goes well, I enjoy watching him – and the young lad showed some nice touches as well,” said Fallon, whose final tries for Leeds were a brace away to Paris St Germain in May, 1996 – one of only six league games the then-Loiners won that season.
In all competitions that year Fallon touched down six times in 14 appearances before his mid-year move, finishing joint third in the club’s try-scoring chart, level with Carl Hall and behind Graham Holroyd (13) and Francis Cummins (10).