Rugby in Leeds
is a rugby league heartland. In these Super League days
- a world of Rhinos, Bulls and Wolves - the history of
the game has become shrouded in fog, at best a dim and
distant memory and a mere footnote in a match day programme.
But in 1895 Leeds were at the forefront of the formation
of the Northern Union, which became the Rugby Football
League. If that breakaway
from Rugby Union hadn't taken place, today's Super League
would never have existed.
The history of rugby in Leeds can be traced back to 1864.
An advert placed in the Leeds Mercury attracted the attention
of 500 players and subsequently several teams - including
Leeds St Johns - were formed. St Johns moved to the new
Headingley sports facility for the 1890-91
season, playing as the football section of the Leeds Cricket,
and Athletic Co Ltd.
Leeds rapidly progressed to become one of the stalwart
sides of the league, rising to the forefront in the Golden
Thirties with the likes of Jeff Moores, Eric Harris and
a fourth Challenge Cup win over Warrington at the then
new Wembley Stadium in 1936.
The halcyon days of the 1970s were made possible through
the efforts of home grown talent developed by Roy Francis
and Syd Hynes.
A barren decade followed before coach Doug Laughton was
appointed in 1991.
Laughton attracted big names to the side, such as Ellery
Hanley, introduced an impressive youth policy and restored
faith and passion to the team. However, Leeds had hit
a low by the time summer rugby and the inaugural Super
League changed the game forever.
After overcoming the threat of going out of business,
the team was reborn as the Rhinos for Super League II.
The appointment of Aussie head coach Graham Murray allowed
the club to regroup in time to reach the Challenge Cup
for the swansong of Wembley in 1999, where they played
with all the passion of a club with a fine pedigree to
take a 52-16 win over London Broncos.
There have been many highs and lows over the years and
that story looks set to continue for years to come. Former
player Daryl Powell was appointed First Team Coach in