Leeds Rhinos

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Leeds Rhinos
Leeds Rhinos Logo.png
Club information
Full name Leeds Rhinos
Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) The Rhinos
The Loiners[1]
Website Official site
Founded 1870; 145 years ago (1870)
Current details
Chairman Paul Caddick
Head Coach Brian McDermott
Competition Super League
2014 season 6th
Rugby football current event.png Current season

Leeds Rhinos are a professional rugby league club in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

In 1895, Leeds were one of twenty-two rugby clubs which broke away from the Rugby Football Union and formed what is now the Rugby Football League. Leeds joined the Super League in 1996 and became Leeds Rhinos in 1997.[2] The club is owned by the same company that owns Leeds Carnegie rugby union team.

Leeds have won thirteen Challenge Cups, nine League championships and three World Club Challenge titles.


1870-1920: Foundation and early years[edit]

Leeds playing at the 2008 Boxing Day friendly

In 1864, H. I. Jenkinson placed an advert in the Leeds Mercury inviting players to meet up at Woodhouse Moor a few days a week from 7 am to 8 am. That advert attracted more than 500 members. From this interest several clubs were formed including Leeds St John's.[3]

Leeds St John's was formed in 1870 and was originally known as the "Old Blue and Ambers". The club played at the Militia Barracks from 1870 to 1888 before moving to Cardigan Fields, near Headingley, Leeds.[4] Membership was originally confined to the church classes but was soon expanded. By 1887 St John's had reached its first cup final, the Yorkshire Cup losing to Wakefield Trinity.

The city of Leeds had an abundance of rugby football clubs and although members of the Yorkshire RFU[5] (which was in turn a constituent body of the RFU), it was decided to form a ‘more local’ association. It was for this reason that the Leeds & District organisation was formalised when a meeting took place at the Green Dragon Hotel, Leeds on 27 September 1888. The foundation clubs were Bramley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Kirkstall, Leeds Parish Church, Leeds St John’s and Wortley.[6]

In 1888 the Cardigan Estate was sold at auction and Lot 17a was purchased by a group of Leeds citizens, who intended to form the city's leading sports club. Lot 17a became what is now Headingley Stadium.

Leeds St John's played its final season under that name in 1889–90, before becoming the football section of Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Co Ltd the following season. With Headingley still being completed, Leeds' first game was staged at Cardigan Fields, the home side defeating Otley. The first game at Headingley was played on 20 September 1890, when Manningham were beaten by one try and one dropped goal to nil.

In 1892 27,654 spectators, a then record in British rugby, attended the third round showdown between Leeds and Halifax at Headingley.[7]

A special general meeting was held in 1895 which voted decisively to support the breakaway Northern Union as a founder member, resulting in two resignations from the club. Leeds' début in the Northern Union was a 6–3 success at Leigh on 7 September 1895, the inaugural day of the new competition.[8]

In 1901, the Leeds Parish Church team disbanded and put all of its players at Leeds' disposal. That same year saw the formation of the Northern Rugby League, with a number of leading clubs leaving the Yorkshire League and the Lancashire League and joining the new competition. Leeds was not admitted until the following year when it was placed in the newly formed second division and quickly gained promotion as runners-up to Keighley.

Leeds City FC joined soccer's Second Division in 1905–06, and finished sixth out of 20 clubs in the club's first season. Rugby's monopoly with the locals seemed to have been broken, with Leeds Rugby League's average gate numbers falling by nearly 50% in that first league season.[9]

In 1910, Leeds came of age with the team finishing in sixth place in the league, but that was just a warm-up for the Challenge Cup campaign. Leeds beat Hull Kingston Rovers, Rochdale Hornets, Keighley and then scraped through 11–10 against Warrington in the semi-final before meeting Hull in the final. Rain on the morning of the game meant conditions were against flowing rugby. The scores were level at 7–7 with fifteen minutes left, however neither team could break the deadlock and the final went to a replay two days later, again at Fartown, Huddersfield. Leeds made no mistake this time and ran out convincing 26–12 winners having led 16–0 at half-time.

The club lost many players to the First World War; of a total of fifty-one players who served in the military, fifteen were killed. The usual league programme was interrupted during 1914–18. During this period, Leeds played a number of "guest players" in the Emergency League competition. The Headingley club reached the Championship final for the first time in 1915, but lost 35–2 to Huddersfield, then a record score. The Emergency League was then suspended. Leeds reverted to rugby union during World War I to play a one-off challenge game against the Royal Navy Depot from Plymouth in 1917. This was a precursor to the following Christmas when two Challenge games were organised between the two sides but this time with one of each code. The Navy won the union game 9–3 on Christmas Eve but proved equally adept at league recording a 24–3 win on 28 December.

1921-1942: Inter-war period[edit]

In 1921, Harold Buck became the game’s first £1,000 transfer when he moved from Hunslet to Leeds.[10][11]

On Saturday 27 October 1934, Leeds and Wakefield Trinity met in the final of the Yorkshire Cup at Crown Flatt, Dewsbury. The match was played in front of a crowd of 22,598 and ended in a 5–5 draw.[12] Four days later the two clubs drew again, with Leeds eventually lifting the trophy after a second replay, the only occasion it took three attempts to settle a Yorkshire Cup Final. A total of 52,402 spectators watched the three games.

Leeds forward Joe Thompson was the top point scorer for both the 1929–30 and 1927–28 seasons.

In 1937, Leeds paid the stand-off Vic Hey a then-record £1,400 signing-on fee to lure him from Australia. Vic was regarded as a major loss to the Australian game and this contributed to the RFL imposing a ban on international transfers, which lasted until 1940.[13]

In 1938, Leeds played Swinton in the Rugby Football League Championship semi-final. Leeds won the match 5 points to 2 to set up a history-making all-Leeds clash with neighbours Hunslet in the final. The match was played at the Elland Road football ground, to accommodate a huge demand from the city’s rugby league supporters. Over 54,000 people watched the game, a then record for a match in England. Hunslet triumphed 8–2 to take the title.[14]

Leeds won the Challenge Cup in 1941 and 1942.[15]

1950-1960: Post-war[edit]

Following the Second World War, Leeds club struggled to make a serious impact in rugby league despite having a financial advantage over the majority of other teams. Arthur Clues was the first Australian to come and play in England after the war and the great Australian second rower was signed by Leeds. His rivalry with the Great Britain and Wales prop Frank Whitcombe who played for Bradford Northern was legendary. Their confrontations on the field during the Leeds v Bradford Northern local derby games are part of rugby league folklore.

It was not until the late 1950s, when in 1957 the club secured its first post-war Challenge Cup victory, that the young side being built began to show signs of what was to come. Joe Warham came to Leeds as coach in 1958 and a Yorkshire Cup triumph followed, but the side still lacked enough quality to compete at the top of the Lancashire section of the competition in which it was then playing.

However "the Loiners" (their historical nickname) were to establish themselves as a dominant force by the end of the coming decade. In 1960 Dai Prosser was appointed to assist Joe Warham with the coaching duties and the club signed a new back three of Jack Fairbank, Brian Shaw and Dennis Goodwin to strengthen the forward pack.[16] The recruitment paid off: the club was crowned Champions for the first time in 1961 with Lewis Jones leading them to a 25–10 victory over Warrington in the Championship Final at Odsal Stadium, Bradford.[17]

1960-1980: Continued success[edit]

In the late 1960s, under the guidance of Roy Francis, Leeds repeatedly finished top of the league. The club contested perhaps the most memorable of all Wembley occasions, the "watersplash final" of 1968, which was played despite a downpour that saturated the pitch. It produced the most dramatic of finishes, when Lance Todd trophy winner Don Fox had the easiest of conversions to win it for Wakefield Trinity, but missed it to leave Leeds 11–10 winners.

Francis then quit the club to take up a coaching position in Australia, and Joe Warham again took charge as coach, on an interim basis, midway through the 1969 campaign.[18][19] The Championship trophy duly returned to Headingley for the second time after a tough final against Castleford at Odsal Stadium.[20]

In 1970 Leeds returned to the Championship final, and Odsal, but lost to St Helens despite having taken an early lead. Tables were turned in December when the same teams met in the final of the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy, Leeds emerging victorious this time.[21]

Coached by Derek "Rocky" Turner, Leeds returned to Wembley in 1971 and 1972 but lost out both times – in 1971 losing 24–7 to rank outsiders Leigh and suffering the indignity of captain Syd Hynes being the first man to 'take an early bath' at Wembley.[22][23] A third championship, in 1972, provided consolation.

Eric Ashton (former Wigan and Great Britain centre) coached Leeds for the 1973–74 season before leaving to coach St Helens.[24]

Leeds continued to collect silverware: the Regal Trophy in 1973 and the Premiership (the then-current form of the championship playoff) in 1975.[25] The team held the Yorkshire Cup seven times between 1969 and 1980.

1976–77 was a season of mixed emotions. The Salford versus Leeds league match was abandoned after 38 minutes when Chris Sanderson of Leeds suffered a fatal injury. Leeds led 5–2, but the game was declared null and void and not replayed. The club recovered to win the Challenge Cup at the end of the season. This success was repeated in 1978, in a classic final against St Helens at Wembley Stadium with Leeds completing what was then a record comeback, from 10–0 down. Former captain Syd Hynes was coach on both occasions.

This was followed up with another Premiership win, in 1979.[26] However these victories were the 'last hurrah' of the great '60s and '70s sides and a barren spell followed in the '80s.


Leeds' only triumphs were the 1984 John Player Trophy (beating Widnes) under coach Maurice Bamford and the Yorkshire Cup in 1980 (beating Hull K R) and 1988(beating Castleford).[27] Leeds were beaten finalists in the John Player Trophy four times in the 1980s and '90s.

Between December 1986 and April 1988, Maurice Bamford was coach of Leeds.

Leeds eventually returned to Wembley for a Challenge Cup final appearance in 1994 against Wigan.[28] The game was memorable for a length of the field try by Martin Offiah, considered by many to be one of the greatest tries ever scored, which clinched the game for Wigan. Leeds returned to Wembley a year later, again to face Wigan again, but were beaten more easily.[29]

1996: Summer era[edit]

Leeds celebrating their 2008 Grand Final victory
Leeds reserve team in action against Hull reserves, May 2009.

In 1996 Gary Hetherington sold his controlling interest in Sheffield Eagles and joined Paul Caddick to take over the ailing Leeds C F & A Co Ltd, owners and operators of Headingley Stadium and Leeds Rugby League Club. 1996 marked the beginning of summer rugby as the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season.[30]

In 1997, the club renamed itself Leeds Rhinos. Dean Bell took over as head coach following his retirement as a player at Auckland Warriors.[31] Iestyn Harris joined Leeds that year for a record-breaking £350,000 transfer[32] and was appointed captain in his first full season at the age of only 21. Leeds experienced great financial difficulty and even flirted with relegation. Bell became head of the Academy team.

Graham Murray joined the Leeds Rhinos as head coach. The turnaround was quick, however, and in 1998 Leeds once again reached a major final, facing Wigan in the inaugural Grand Final, at Old Trafford, Manchester. Leeds lost 10–4 in a tense and very evenly-matched game.[33] In 1999 Leeds finally landed the first silverware in a decade, and the first Challenge Cup for over 20 years, with a convincing 52–16 win over London at Wembley in front of a crowd of 73,242.[34][35] Murray signed a deal to coach the North Sydney Bears for the 2000 NRL season and left the club.


In 2000, after a nightmare opening to the season, Leeds put themselves in a position to defend this trophy when they met Yorkshire rivals Bradford at Murrayfield, Edinburgh. It was not to be and after a poor start from Leeds, Bradford edged them out by six points.[36]

Once again a period of transition loomed for Leeds, with many youngsters emerging and taking the place of experienced first team members. Daryl Powell became coach of Leeds after he retired from playing in 2001.[37]

In 2003, despite being top of the table at the time, Leeds announced Tony Smith would replace Darryl Powell as Head Coach for the 2004 season.[38] Leeds returned to the Challenge Cup final in 2003, again to face Bradford, this time at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Leeds once again lost out in a very tense game, losing 22–20 in front of 71,212 fans. The game was memorable for the decision by the Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield to spurn the opportunity of a kickable 2-point penalty to level up the game with just minutes left.[39]

In 2004 Leeds finally shed the 'bridesmaid' tag in Super League. The team picked up its first championship title in 32 years with a narrow win over Bradford 16–8 in the Grand Final at Old Trafford in front of a sell-out crowd.[40] The team followed this by winning the World Club Challenge beating Australian side Canterbury Bulldogs 39–32 in front of 37,028 spectators at Elland Road, Leeds.

This success was not to be repeated in 2005: after a wonderful first half to the season the team's form slumped and Leeds lost a third Challenge Cup final in six years, shaded by a briefly resurgent Hull 24–25. Leeds then lost the Grand Final in the same season, thwarted by Bradford, 15–6. It was the seventh final Leeds had lost in 10 years.

2006 was hugely disappointing. Leeds finished third in the Super League XI table, but lost in their first play-off game against Warrington. There was also a disappointing defeat to Huddersfield in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup.[41]

In 2007 Leeds finished second after the 27 regular rounds, and lost 10–8 at St Helens in the Grand Final eliminator in what many of the players described as the most brutal and tough game of their careers. Leeds then produced a brilliant performance at home to beat a resurgent Wigan side 36–6, thus reaching the Grand Final. Leeds triumphed in the final in spectacular circumstances, beating St Helens 33–6 in front of over 71,000 spectators. Leeds' points included 12 from Kevin Sinfield (meaning he had scored in every match this season). Rob Burrow was named man-of-the-match winning the Harry Sunderland Trophy.[42]

Tony Smith, who was leaving to coach Great Britain, departed on a euphoric note as arguably the greatest coach in the club's history (with two Grand Finals and a world challenge title). He was replaced by former New Zealand international team coach Brian McClennan.[43]

On 26 January 2008, in the warm-up to the 2008 season, Leeds played South Sydney Rabbitohs at Hodges StadiumUniversity of North Florida – the first international rugby league match held in the USA, which Leeds won 26–24. Soon afterwards Leeds beat Melbourne Storm 11–4 at Elland Road in the 2008 World Club Challenge.[44] A Scott Donald try combined with a drop goal by Kevin Sinfield secured the monumentous win in front of a record[45] crowd of 33,204.[46] In 2008[47] Leeds retained the Super League crown by defeating St. Helens 24–16 in a thrilling contest. Lee Smith and Ryan Hall helped Leeds to a 12–6 lead at half time. Danny McGuire scored twice after the break and Kevin Sinfield successfully converting all four tries.[48] The team became the first Leeds team to win consecutive titles, and only the second in Super League history.[49][50]

In 2009, Leeds again beat St Helens in the Super League grand final, 18–10, and thus became the first club ever to win the trophy three times in a row.[51]


2010 saw elimination in the semi-finals of the play-offs with defeat at home to Wigan after losing key player Danny McGuire in the first- round victory over the same opposition. Leeds also made it through to the final of the Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium but a poor performance on the day saw Warrington emerge victorious. Brian McClennan left the club at the end of the season and was replaced by Brian McDermott.

2011 was a trying year and the team and management came in for heavy criticism following poor early season performances, culminating in an embarrassing 38–18 loss to Catalans in July leaving Leeds 8th in the table. However, following a nail-biting extra-time golden point win over local rivals Castleford in the Challenge Cup, Leeds began to hit form, and they were to lose only one more league game in the entire season. They reached the Challenge Cup final and only narrowly missed out to much-fancied Wigan. Having finished 5th in the league Leeds nevertheless reached the 2011 Grand Final, the first team ever to do so from outside the top 3, to face St Helens. Leeds led 8–2 at the break thanks to a wonder-try from Rob Burrow. However Saints roared back and led 16–8 lead with 20 minutes to play. Somehow Leeds rallied and won their 5th Grand Final, with tries from Webb, Hall, Ablett and Hardaker.

In 2012, Leeds again reached Wembley and were beaten - this time 35–16 by a strong Warrington side. Leeds again finished 5th in the league, and again reached the Grand Final and took the Super League title. This was a record 6th win – the most of any club in the SL era. En route to Old Trafford they beat Wakefield Trinity, Catalans Dragons and then Wigan. In the Grand Final Leeds were up against Warrington, seeking an unprecedented double and hot favourites. Warrington went over after only 4 minutes thanks to Richie Myler; Leeds battled back to an 8-point lead only to be levelled 14–14 at half time. Warrington scored first in the second half, but an Ablett converted try gave Leeds a 2-point lead, 20–18. With 12 minutes on the clock, and after a tremendous move which involved 10 passes, the ball flew wide to Ryan Hall who made it 24–18. A crucial conversion from Sinfield saw Leeds 8 points clear and in possession of yet another winner's ring. They failed in their chance to become world champions, going down to Melbourne Storm 14-18 in the 2013 World Club Challenge.[52] Leeds were unable to reach a 4th successive Challenge Cup final as they were beaten in the 5th round 24-8 by Huddersfield. Leeds suffered an injury crisis halfway through the season; despite this they managed to finish 3rd, their highest league finish under Brian McDermott. Leeds lost to Warrington in the first week of the playoffs. Leeds then won a nail-biting elimination tie against St Helens with Danny McGuire kicking a late drop goal to secure an 11-10 win. Leeds missed out on another Grand Final however as they lost 22-12 to Wigan.

2014 started off well for Leeds and they found themselves at the top for the first few months of the season. After a fantastic win away at Castleford in May, Leeds' Super League form tailed off seeing them end the season in 6th. Leeds lost 20-24 to the Catalans Dragons in the first week of the playoffs, Catalans' first ever win at Headingley. Leeds did manage to finally win the Challenge Cup again; after 6 consecutive defeats they beat Castleford 23-10, with tries from Tom Briscoe, Danny McGuire and 2 from Ryan Hall as well as a drop goal from McGuire and 6 points from the boot of Kevin Sinfield. Hall's 2 tries saw him win the Lance Todd trophy as man of the match.


The new Carnegie Stand at Headingley
Main article: Headingley Stadium

Leeds play at Headingley, the second-largest stadium in the Super League not to be shared with a football club after Odsal Stadium in Bradford which has a capacity of 27,491. The ground has a capacity of 22,250 including some seating and some standing areas.[53]

The new Carnegie (East) stand (pictured) was opened in 2006.

The club are currently looking at refurbishing the (all-standing) South Stand, capacity of which has been reduced temporarily while structural repairs are carried out.[54]

Consideration is also being given to rebuilding the (all-seated) North Stand, however being as it is double sided they require the support of Yorkshire Cricket first as any redevelopment would have to take place on both sides. The club's plans to redevelop the North Stand look set to be delayed since Yorkshire Cricket have no intention on redeveloping this until their replacement of the 'Winter shed' is complete. This has led to the club exploring the option of redeveloping the Western Terraces instead, however this would require the demolition of six houses and the re-routing of a public right of way.


Ronnie the Rhino, the mascot of Leeds
Main article: Ronnie the Rhino

Ronnie the Rhino is the Leeds mascot.[55] He attempts to get the crowd going pre-match, and at half-time he normally gets children involved by playing some sort of game.

Ronnie the Rhino visits schools as part of the Leeds RLFC Community project, with the intention of promoting sports and healthy living.[56]


Leeds' main local rivals are Bradford and Castleford. Leeds also have a cross-city rivalry with Hunslet, notably the annual Lazenby Cup. There is also a derby with Wakefield Trinity, and to some extent Hull, Huddersfield and also cross-pennine rivalries with St Helens and Wigan.[57][58][59][60]


Luke Burgess with the Super League trophy in 2009.
  • World Club Challenge (3): 2005, 2008, 2012
  • Championship (including Super League) (9): 1960–61, 1968–69, 1971–72, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
  • Challenge Cup (13) 1909–10, 1922–23, 1931–32, 1935–36, 1940–41, 1941–42, 1956–57, 1967–68, 1976–77, 1977–78, 1999, 2014, 2015
  • League Leader's Shield (3) 2004, 2009, 2015
  • Premiership (2): 1974–75, 1978–79
  • Yorkshire Cup (17): 1921–22, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1932–33, 1934–35, 1935–36, 1937–38, 1958–59, 1968–69, 1970–71, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1975–76, 1976,77, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1988–89
  • Yorkshire League (14): 1901–02, 1927–28, 1930–31, 1933–34, 1934–35, 1936–37, 1950–51, 1954–55, 1956–57, 1960–61, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70
  • Regal Trophy (2): 1972–73, 1983–84
  • BBC2 Floodlit Trophy (1): 1970–71[25]

Past coaches[edit]

Nationality Name Appointed Left
 Wales Dai Prosser 1936 1957
 England Joe Warham 1958 1962
 Wales Roy Francis 1963 1969
 England Joe Warham 1969 1970
 England Derek Turner 1970 1973
 England Eric Ashton 1973 1974
 England Syd Hynes 1975 1981
 England Robin Dewhurst 1980 1983
 England Maurice Bamford 1984 1985
 Australia Malcolm Clift 1985
 England Peter Fox 1986
 England Mal Reilly 1988 1990
 England David Ward 1990 1991
 England Doug Laughton 1992 1995
 New Zealand Dean Bell 1996 1997
 Australia Graham Murray 1998 1999
 Australia Dean Lance 1999 2001
 England Daryl Powell 2001 2003
 Australia Tony Smith 2004 2007
 New Zealand Brian McClennan 2008 2010
 England Brian McDermott 2011 Present

2015 squad[edit]

*Announced on 12 November 2014.

Leeds Rhinos 2015 Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

  • (c) Captain
  • (vc) Vice captain

Updated: 12 November 2014
Source(s): 2015 Squad Numbers

2016 transfers[edit]


Nat Name Signed from Contract Announced
Republic of Ireland Anthony Mullally Huddersfield Giants 3 Years May 2015
Australia Keith Galloway Wests Tigers 3 Years July 2015
England Jordan Baldwinson Featherstone Rovers Loan Return October 2015
England Alex Foster Featherstone Rovers Loan Return October 2015
England Mason Tonks Featherstone Rovers Loan Return October 2015
England Elliott Minchella London Broncos Loan Return


Nat Name Signed for Contract Announced
England Jamie Peacock Retirement N/A March 2015
England Kevin Sinfield Yorkshire Carnegie 2 Years March 2015
New Zealand Kylie Leuluai Retirement N/A June 2015
Papua New Guinea Paul Aiton Catalans Dragons 3 Years August 2015
England Chris Clarkson Hull KR 2 Years October 2015

Notable players[edit]

The Yorkshire Evening Post named Arthur Clues, Albert "Bert" Cook, Ellery Hanley, Eric Harris, Vic Hey, John Holmes, Lewis Jones, Danny McGuire, Garry Schofield and Frederick "Fred" Webster, as the greatest ever Leeds RL players.[61]

Players earning international caps while at Leeds[edit]

Players receiving testimonial matches[edit]

Other notable players[edit]

These players have either; won Challenge Cup, Rugby Football League Championship/Super League Grand Final, Yorkshire Cup, Yorkshire League, played during Super League, or were international representatives before, or after, their time at Leeds.

  • John Wilkinson Birch circa-1900s

Coaching set-up[edit]

Nationality Staff Name Position
England Brian McDermott Head coach
England Barrie McDermott Head of Youth Development
England Billy Watts Time-Keeper/Club Legend
England Jason Davidson Head Conditioner
Wales Andy Barker Head Physiotherapist
England Steve Clegg Masseur

Notable supporters[edit]

See also[edit]


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