Leeds Rhinos RLFC’s 10 Greatest Players
The Leeds Rhinos are a storied old English club that has had a great deal of recent success. Based in West Yorkshire, Leeds were founded in 1870 after a newspaper ad placed in 1864 developed from an hour of throwing the rugby ball around in the park into the desire to create an actual competitive team.
Known originally as the “Old Blue and Ambers”, Leeds St. Johns was one of the many clubs that eventually pooled into the version of the side we see today. Leeds was one of the 22 rugby clubs that broke away from the Rugby Football Union to form the Rugby Football League in 1895, sticking around at the top level of the game and joining the Super League in 1996.
Leeds has won 11 League Championships and 13 Challenge Cups throughout its history, but eight of those 11 titles have come during the Super League era. With that in mind, this is going to be an interesting list as we see which legends of the club’s past fit alongside their modern counterparts.
10. Bert Cook
New Zealander Herbert “Bert” Cook signed with Leeds in 1947 after moving to England from his home town of Wairoa. Cook went on to play 210 times in his six year stint with Leeds, before moving on to Keighley and Dewsbury to finish out his career in the North of England.
Cook is regarded as one of the best Kiwis to ever wear a Leeds jumper, excelling both in attack and defense as an unconventional fullback. His stout, powerful frame allowed him to break tackles with ease and he would consistently punish opposing players who broke through the front line. Cook was also deadly accurate with the boot, setting several club point-scoring records and kicking 556 goals during his stay in West Yorkshire. His 55 metre penalty goal in the mud during the 1947 Challenge Cup tie will forever be a part of Leeds folklore.
9. Danny McGuire
It is unusual to have a current player on a list like this, but Danny McGuire deserves recognition as he has been a superstar for Leeds during the Super League era. McGuire made his Leeds debut in 2001 and has spent his entire career with the Rhinos, but is sadly departing to Hull KR for the 2018 season. McGuire was a key member of Leeds most dominant period, capturing eight Super League titles, three World Club Challenge trophies, three League Leader’s Shields, and a couple of Challenge Cups.
McGuire played over 400 games for Leeds and scored over 250 tries. He was the first player to score 200 tries in the Super League era and the highest try scorer in the history of the competition (eclipsing former teammate Keith Senior in 2012). In his final appearance for the club, McGuire captained the Rhinos to victory in the 2017 Super League Grand Final. He was named man of the match, scoring two tries, kicking two field goals, and cementing his place as one of the club’s all-time greats.
8. Vic Hey
Vic Hey was known as “The Human Bullet” so you can probably figure out one of his greatest assets immediately. Hey was born in New South Wales, Australia and played for Wests, Toowoomba, and Ipswich, before making his way to the Northern hemisphere in 1937. Hey helped Leeds to Challenge Cup wins in back to back years in 1941 and 1942 and he was known for his smart play in attack to go along with ferocious defense for his size. Hey went on to be a successful coach at both club and country level and he is known as one of the greatest pivots to ever play the game.
7. Lewis Jones
Lewis Jones was a dual code international who Leeds tempted over from rugby union in November 1952. His first contract was for a record £6,000 (a figure that would have equaled £382,000 in 2009).
After investing so much in Jones, it was important that the Welshman get off to a good start with his new club. Instead, Jones went out and broke his arm, leaving him unable to contribute much in his initial season. After that, however, he repaid the faith shown in him. A superb playmaker, goalkicker and captain, Jones steered the club to its inaugural title in 1961 and set a host of individual records.
Jones won 15 caps for Great Britain, scoring in every game he appeared, while also scoring 3,372 points for Leeds during his wonderful 12 year career with the club.
6. Garry Schofield
Gary Schofield did not begin his career with Leeds, but he became one of the town’s favorite sons while playing for the club in late 80s and early 90s. Beginning his career with Hull F.C., and spending some time with Balmain in Australia, Schofield was signed back by his hometown club in 1987 for a world record fee of £155,000.
Schofield was at his peak when playing for Leeds as he donned the Blue and Amber for 251 games between 1987 and 1996. In those games he scored 147 tries and contributed 64 goals to the cause, and he was named the Rugby League World Golden Boot Award winner in 1990 as the greatest player on the planet. This was largely because of his incredible performances in a Test series win over New Zealand and a 19-12 Great Britain win over Australia at Wembley that year.
5. Fred Webster
Fred Webster was a player who represented Leeds back in the foundation days of the game. Webster was a ferocious scrummager and he played a remarkable 543 games for Leeds in a career with the club that ran from 1902-1919. During that time he scored 76 tries and even kicked four goals for the club; his try-scoring record being particularly impressive given the way the game was played back in that bygone era.
Webster’s greatest individual achievement while at Leeds was scoring a club record eight tries (later to be equaled by the Eric Harris), as Leeds beat Coventry 102-0 in a 1913 clash. He is one of the greatest servants in the history of the club and was named one of the greatest ever Leeds players in 2013.
4. Eric Harris
Eric Harris finds his place on this list for many reasons, but the winger should also be noted as having one of the best nicknames in the history of rugby league. Known as the “Toowoomba Ghost,” Harris made his Leeds debut in 1930 and went on to play 383 games for the club. During that spell the Australian transplant scored a stunning 391 tries, averaging more than one try per game while in Great Britain.
Harris scored in 17 consecutive matches in one period during the 1935-36 season, a total that remains a world record today. To put that number in perspective, Harris actually scored 36 tries during those 17 matches, as teams were unable to cope with his speed and skill on the wing.
3. Arthur Clues
Arthur Clues made his name playing for Wests before becoming the first Australian to sign for an English team after World War II. Clues was lured to the Northern Hemisphere by a lucrative contract, but when he hit the ground in Leeds he showed the Yorkshire side that he was worth every penny that had been shelled out in capturing his signature.
Clues played 238 games for the club and probably would have added another 100 or so more to that total had a dispute with management in 1954 not seen him move to Hunslet. Clues was one of the finest forwards the game has seen, able to combine a fearsome image (which he regularly backed up with physical play) with a skill set that was unbelievable for a big man. This include a stunning turn of pace, a side-step seemingly too deft for his imposing frame, and a passing game ahead of his era.
2. John Holmes
John Holmes played for Leeds for a remarkable 21 years starting in 1968 and retiring in 1989. During that time Holmes amassed 625 appearances, 153 tries, 539 goals, and three field goals, for a total of 1,554 points during his long and successful career. That number of 625 appearances is a club record that is hard to see ever being broken in this era of attrition and player movement.
Holmes began as a fullback with Leeds before moving to stand-off later in his career and he was suitably equipped as a player to handle each position successfully. Holmes played in 19 major finals with the club, winning 14 of those and helping to set the platform for the Super League era of dominance that was just around the corner.
1. Kevin Sinfield
Of all the modern day greats to have worn a Leeds Rhinos shirt, Kevin Sinfield is the one that stands out as the greatest of all. His Leeds career began in 1997 and spanned an astonishing 18 years before he retired in 2015. Given the brutal pounding taken and the insane fitness levels that are needed to play in the pack in the modern game it is incredible that Sinfield played so well for so long.
Known as “Sir Kev” to the Headingley faithful, Sinfield played 521 games for the club. An outstanding goal kicker, he notched 1,792 goals to go along with 86 tries, adding in 39 field goals for good measure. His total of 3,967 points makes him the third highest points scorer in British rugby league history.
Notching up seven Super League titles, three World Club Challenge titles, three League Leader’s Shields, and two Challenge Cups, Sinfield led Leeds through the greatest winning period the club has ever seen. With several pieces of individual silverware (such as a Lance Todd Trophy, two Harry Sunderlands, and a Golden Boot) also on the mantelpiece, no one can doubt the immense impact Sinfield has had and his place among Leeds greatest ever players is assured.