Hall of Fame Dinner a massive success
Garry Schofield OBE, Bev Risman OBE, Jeff Stevenson and Joe Thompson became the latest former Leeds stars to be named in the clubs Hall of Fame this week at a packed dinner at Emerald Headingley.
Jeff Stevenson’s daughter, Bev O’Donell, collected the award on behalf of her father and said it would have been a very proud moment for the former half back. Whilst Joe Thompson grand daughter Glenys Toft received the accolade for the former Welsh dual code international. She recalled, “I was raised by my grandparents after my mum died when I was young. He was very proud of his time at Leeds and the house was full of memorabilia from his playing career. We lived in Kirkstall and we couldn’t walk along the street without people wanting to talk to him about Leeds Rugby League so it is lovely to see him named in the Hall of Fame.”
Garry Schofield and Bev Risman were present on the night to receive their accolades. Schofield was able to thank to who his former coaches who were in the audience, “I would like to thank David Ward for giving me the opportunity to play at stand off at Leeds and to my international coach in Mal Reilly for trusting me to lead the side. I am often reminded about what I didn’t win as a player but to be named in the Hall of Fame at this club, the greatest club in Rugby League, means the world to me.”
Bev Risman paid tribute to his former team mates, some of whom were in the room to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Watersplash Final, especially the departed Mick Shoebottom.
Another four players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year and space will be provided within the newly developed Emerald Headingley to remember all those who are entered into the elite.
An astonishing welcome awaited the Leeds team on their triumphal return from Wigan with the Rugby League Cup, after their win over Swinton in the final on the 9th of April, 1932.
Crowds began to collect in City Square and thousands of people lined both sides of Boar Lane to Briggate. So huge was the crowd that police reserves were called to clear a passage, 82 tramcars stretching for half a mile along Wellington Street.
A few minutes after eight, a great shout announced the arrival of a motor coach with the team on their way to the Griffin Hotel, itself surrounded by an estimated 10,000 fans, for a commemorative dinner.
All demanded to see the captain, who had kicked four vital goals, and the trophy. A miner from age 13, he had joined Leeds in January 1923, aged 20 from Cross Keys for £300, after making a sole appearance at Twickenham for Wales – receiving that cap 52 years later.
Within 16 games and 11 weeks, he had his first Challenge Cup winners’ medal as Hull were downed after a replay.
Signed as a second rower, he moved to prop where his skill in the loose with both hands and feet became a feature of the sides’ play at the start of Leeds’ first golden era; he was described as ‘the complete footballer.’
Not initially a goal kicker, by assiduous practice he became one of the code’s best, the first Leeds player to land 100 in a season, in 1927-8, and twice topping the goals and points standings overall.
He played in 25 internationals, 12 of them Tests, captained Wales – for whom he played eight times – against the 1930 Kangaroos, and appeared seven times for Glamorgan & Monmouthshire RL and five for Other Nationalities.
According to Leeds chairman Sir Edwin Airey: “He was a model servant of the club, always loyal and conscientious and made his mark not only on every English ground, but on Australian enclosures.”
The first forward to be selected to go on three Great Britain tours in 1924, 28 and 32 (Lions heritage number 94) he played internationals in all of his 11 seasons with the Loiners.
He only once failed to finish a game, when kicked on the head against Queensland, when it was rumoured he had died.
Also known as, “dependability itself and reassuringly solid,” he appeared in seven finals and, on his retirement before the start of the 1933-4 season, he was made only the second life member of the club, the other being Lady Airey.
Instrumental in teaching Jean Galia’s men the rudiments of the sport that led to the formation of the game in France when Leeds coach in 1934-5, he also worked on the new South Stand in 1931 before a job with the Tramways Dept.
The first Leeds player to hold two Challenge Cup winner’s medals, he remains third in the club’s all-time list of points’ scorers with 1,883.
The fifth inductee into the Leeds Rugby League Club Hall of Fame is JOE THOMPSON (Heritage number 443) 390 appearances between 1923-33
BEV RISMAN OBE
Sometimes it is a change in position that can make all the difference.
As a replacement effectively for Ken Thornett, and a measure of Roy Francis’s unique vision – a converted stand-off signing from Leigh had all the necessary distributive and decision making skills to be an instant success in the custodian’s role.
He joined a young, enthusiastic Leeds side that just needed guidance from the back, and his ability to size up a situation on attack to best release two of the finest wingers in the game under the new limited tackle rules was a revelation.
It was never better seen than in the dramatic, match-winning climax to the 1969 Championship final at Odsal, when his run from the back and precision kick freed John Atkinson for the decisive score.
Salford-born but Cumbrian raised, he had a wonderful feel and appreciation for the game, being steeped in its tradition through his exceptional Hall of Fame father.
A standout student player in rugby union in the 1950s, he gained eight caps for England over three years, leading to a call up to play on the 1959 British Lions tour to New Zealand, the on-field highlight of which was a sensational try in the Fourth Test.
On his return the league scouts were out in force, and in 1961 he joined the Leythers, coming to Headingley five years later.
An intelligent strategist, with Leeds he won every major medal and fitted in perfectly to the entertainment principle, ironically missing few games until his playing career was ended by a chronic knee injury at Warrington in February 1970.
His input to success at the start of the second Leeds golden era was key, not least with his exceptional goal kicking – the leading exponent in the game from 1967-69, with a high of 165.
Selected as skipper of the 1968 GB World Cup party, he appeared five times for his country and once for England.
A school teacher, after he finished playing, he devoted himself to the sport, not least as the first development officer in the south, helping set up student rugby league, managing Fulham and as a director at London Broncos.
At the cutting edge of fitness and training, he worked with the Lawn Tennis Association and was also technical director of David Storey’s rugby league play ‘The Changing Room’ in the West End.
Chairman of Carlisle Centurions when moving back home and of the Leeds ex-players association, a former trustee of the Rugby League Foundation and President of the RFL – redefining that role – he was awarded of an OBE in 2012 for his services to the sport
The sixth inductee into the Leeds Rugby League Club Hall of Fame is BEV RISMAN, OBE (Heritage number 1004) 164 appearances between 1966-70
Individual awards in finals were instituted in 1946, the Lance Todd trophy for the best player in the Challenge Cup final. The first Leeds player to win one came nine seasons later.
Nor would the recipient expect to have been the last skipper to lead Great Britain to a rugby league series victory over Australia on home soil.
Alex Murphy had been preferred for the opening Test match at Swinton in 1959, which Britain lost but Leeds’ scrum half came into the side for the next two matches at Headingley and Wigan, assumed the captaincy from Eric Ashton and helped to inspire two victories to retain the Ashes.
His trademark blistering pace from the base of the scrum and clever distribution were encapsulated by a lightning break and flipped inside pass from which Johnny Whiteley scored the winning try in the 11-10 win on his home ground that salvaged the series.
It was the highlight of an outstanding playing career at Leeds, York and Hunslet. He won most of his 19 Great Britain caps while playing for his home city Loiners, having been born in Meanwood and taken up the game at Buslingthorpe National school.
He joined Leeds after an eye-catching display for the RAF against the Royal Navy in a rugby union match at Twickenham in 1952 during his national service.
A senior officer told him that he would be a fool to turn professional and that if he stayed in the airforce he would be promoted to sergeant and probably play rugby union for England – but to no avail, his heart was set.
Although only 5ft 5in, his size never held him back, he was a ferocious defender who tackled well above his weight, and was also a wonderfully selfless ball player who dovetailed perfectly with Lewis Jones.
In six-and-a-half years in blue and amber, he excited crowds with his speed, verve and daring, scored 67 tries and memorably landed the late, 40-yard drop goal in a torrid semi-final against Whitehaven to get the side to Wembley in 1957 where he shone.
He collected two Yorkshire League Championship medals but appeared in only one other final for Leeds, leading the team to victory with a try-scoring performance in the 1958 Yorkshire Cup final against Wakefield, bringing the trophy back after 21 years’ absence.
He joined York in 1959 for £7,500, a record fee paid by a Yorkshire club, and played three seasons there before he led Hunslet to Yorkshire Cup and second division championship honours.
His last game was a Yorkshire Cup defeat by Leeds at Headingley in 1964. He had a spell as landlord of the Anchor in Hunslet, before moving to York and running two more public houses.
Fittingly and most poignantly, on his passing on the day of the 2007 Grand Final, the Leeds number seven, Rob Burrow, won the Harry Sunderland award, skipper Kevin Sinfield dedicating victory to his forerunner.
He becomes the first player to be granted a place in both the Leeds and Hunslet Hall of Fames.
The seventh inductee into the Leeds Rugby League Club Hall of Fame is JEFF STEVENSON (Heritage number 887) 228 appearances between 1952-59
GARRY SCHOFIELD OBE
On eight occasions, Leeds have broken the world transfer record. After avoiding relegation on points’ difference, they did it twice in quick succession in 1987, on both occasions splashing the cash to Hull FC.
The second of those cheques was for a try poacher supreme who lived up the road and came through the Hunslet schools system, emerging as an astonishing teenage talent at right centre for both club and country, after captaining the GB BARLA Youth tour in 1983.
Revered on both sides of the world at club level, his major successes came in the international arena, including scoring the ‘Try of the Century’ in Brisbane in 1984, which was only his third cap and as the youngest-ever tourist aged just 18.
Eight years later he was captaining his country in a World Cup final at a packed Wembley.
He went on a record four tours – the outstanding performer when skippering his side to Second Test triumph in a record away win against the green and golds in Melbourne in ’92 – and left the representative arena as the joint most capped player for Great Britain, a total of 46.
He posted 30 tries in the red, white and blue, including a joint record four at home to New Zealand in 1985 and played in six Ashes series, scoring in every Test in 1986.
His mentor, Leeds president Harry Jepson, said of him, “He was an opportunist. He had the uncanny ability of reading what the opposition were going to do when they had the ball. His pace was tremendous and he had an astonishing, assured ability to take virtually any ball thrown at him – even one handed he’d snatch it and race away; he had everything.”
A Yorkshire Cup winner with the Loiners, like at Hull, he debuted here against Auckland, crossing twice and posted a total of 147 tries for Leeds, at a ratio of one every one-and-a-half games, together with 64 goals and 30 drop goals.
He moved to stand off and appeared twice at Wembley and in three other finals for Leeds, garnering 328 touchdowns in his career of almost 500 games, including having four summer stints down under with Balmain and then Wests.
When he left Leeds, Huddersfield were prepared to pay a world record fee for a lower division club.
Retrospectively awarded the Golden Boot as best player in the world for 1990, he was Man of Steel the following year and is a member of the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
He becomes the second to be admitted to the Leeds version tonight who has been awarded the OBE for services to the game.
The eighth inductee into the Leeds Rugby League Club Hall of Fame is GARRY SCHOFIELD, OBE (Heritage number 1183) 251 appearances between 1987-96