On this Day – 28th May
On this day in 2004, New Zealand international Ali Lauitiiti made his debut for Leeds Rhinos against Salford City Reds at Headingley.
The Rhinos produced a convincing 34-6 win over Salford and the rampant Leeds team hardly needed new signing Ali Lauitiiti as they easily completed the double over lowly Salford.
The 6ft 2in, 17st back rower was given a rapturous welcome by the 14,239 Headingley crowd when he came on after half-an-hour with the Rhinos already 24-0 ahead.
On this day in 1962, New Zealander Trevor Clark was born.
Along with fellow Maori tourist Dean Bell, the sole New Zealanders in the Leeds Aussie invasion that greeted the lifting of the transfer ban – although compatriot Joe Ropati missed out due to injury – the combative hooker arrived at Headingley around the same time as Colin Maskill, which restricted regular appearances.
But whenever he played, often filling in at prop, loose forward or even centre such was his versatility, his all-action style, quick distribution and constant involvement made him a crowd favourite.
Joining from Melville, he scored his first of 10 tries on Boxing Day 1983 in a home win over Fulham, his first season his most productive with five tries from 17 appearances, playing in the Challenge Cup semi final loss to Widnes. In 1986-7 he spent nine games on loan at York, crossing six times and missed most of the following year after suffering a broken leg.
In 1988-89 he followed coach Peter Fox to Featherstone, making 125 appearances in four seasons, scoring 30 tries and appearing in Yorkshire Cup final, travelling with Fox again to Bradford to complete his career over here; retiring as the Super League was being ushered in.
Whilst in Yorkshire he studied for a Masters in Sports & Exercise and added a doctorate of philosophy at Massey University on his return home. Currently head of department at the Australian College of PE in Sydney, son Mitch who was born here and is a prop, is currently with Wigan, having made his name initially with Doncaster and Hull KR and on loan with Featherstone.
On this day, former centre Chris Gibson was born. Gibson began his career with Wakefield Rugby Union as a talented centre for the College Grove-based side in the 1970s. His performances soon caught the eye of Rugby League scouts and he was tempted to turn professional and signed for Leeds in 1977.
He kicked five goals out of five attempts on his debut in a 40-11 win over Dewsbury at Headingley on 24th September 1977.
He made his final appearance for the club off the bench against Leigh at Headingley on 8th September 1979 before a move to York a year later, where he spent five seasons.
In total, Chris made 35 appearances for Leeds Rugby League, scoring four tries and 84 goals.