DFP – Head Script

Don Robinson RIP

28th May 2017 | 12:00 am

By Leeds Rhinos

It is with much sadness that we learned today of the death of our former player, 1957 Challenge Cup winner and 1961 Championship winner, Don Robinson.

WP – In Article MPU

It is with much sadness that we learned today of the death of our former player, 1957 Challenge Cup winner and 1961 Championship winner, Don Robinson.

Don Robinson has a unique place in the history of the club; the first Leeds forward to hold both a Challenge Cup (1957) and Championship Winner’s medal; his feat matched Lewis Jones as the comparable back.  Initially a strapping, rampaging second rower, by the time of the Odsal triumph in 1961, he was established as the bulwark of the pack in the front row.

Born in Castleford in 1932 and initially a centre and then loose forward, he established his name as a junior with Fryston Colliery, Kippax and Newmarket, signing for Wakefield as a 1949 Christmas present. Initially bursting on to the scene as a teenager at Belle Vue with his trademark lunging runs, by 1951-2 his consistency and physical prowess had brought him a Yorkshire Cup triumph against Keighley; an England debut in Marseille in a 42-13 defeat and a top tally at the club of 21 touchdowns.

Maintaining his progress and enhancing his defensive reputation, added to his attacking bursts, he was a vital cog in the Great Britain pack that unexpectedly won the inaugural World Cup in Paris in 1954, playing in all four of their games. Two years later, having been made club captain but becoming increasingly frustrated, he was tempted to Leeds and signed half an hour before the Loiners faced Trinity at Wakefield in January 1956 for a fee of £3,000 and winger Fred Smith.

He had made one short of 200 appearances for the Dreadnoughts and scored 76 tries. On transferring he said, “It was like moving to a different world. At Headingley everything was very business-like, and it was all geared to success.” So it proved, as he made an immediate impact in a try scoring debut against York with a typically powerful effort that was to characterise his play and was a standout in a notable, rare Challenge Cup first round victory at the Boulevard.

The following campaign, he was one of the spearheads of the run to Wembley, scoring a try in the second round game at home to Warrington and helping to lead a never to be forgotten Thrum Hall fight back in the quarter final. At the Twin Towers, he was sensational but what went generally unknown at the time was that he should not have played. Fracturing a wrist against Oldham in the play offs a week before, the initial diagnosis was that he would be out for up to four months. Doctors at the Infirmary came up with a special cast, the injury was kept secret and he played a significant role with, effectively, the bludgeoning match winning try from close in despite the pain.

Approaching the half way point of the second half with Leeds clinging to a 6-2 lead, Barrow back rower Jack Grundy heard a call for a pass about ten yards from his own line and Don found himself with the ball in his hands, powering through two desperate cover tacklers for what proved to be the defining score.

It was the climax to a wonderful first full season in blue and amber which had seen him cross for 16 touchdowns – including his only hat trick in the colours – against Batley. Another try of note came as the Kangaroo tourists were downed at Headingley in a rare success, crashing on to Joe Anderson’s pass just before half time and he also provided the ball to set up the winning try for Bernard Prior that memorable day.

Ashes selection, inevitably, followed and Headingley was to play a key note in his international career with the fastest Test try ever scored in the Second and levelling clash in 1959 here, in an 11-10 success, the series then won at Wigan. In all he pulled on the Great Britain shirt on ten occasions while also representing England three times and Yorkshire with nine appearances.  

He was in the pack as Trinity were beaten twice in Yorkshire Cup finals, in 1958 – Leeds’ first success in 21 years – and three years later, after the Championship crown had been added, with him now firmly established at prop. At Odsal, he put in a typically prodigious stint especially in the opening exchanges as the Warrington pack was dulled and, but for a dropped pass with the line beckoning, after a Barry Simms break, he would have opened the scoring. No matter, with the Warrington six outplayed, he duly collected the ultimate domestic prize.

In 1961-2 he set another club landmark, becoming the first forward post-war to play in all matches in a season, a total of 43. His eight year stint at Leeds ended in March 1964 when he took over as player/coach at Doncaster, having made just short of 300 appearances for the club and totalling 63 tries. He subsequently had a short spell holding the reins at Bramley in the late 70s.

On behalf of everyone at the club we would like to pass on our condonelnces to Don's friends and family.