Behind the numbers – Harry Street – heritage number 916
To mark the 130th anniversary of the first ever game at Headingley, we recently launched a new celebration shirt which includes the names of every player that has played for the club since the establishment of the Northern Union in 1895.
The Leeds Rhinos Foundation Heritage Group traced every player who has made an appearance for the first team, and allocated them a chronological number going back to 1895. That has unearthed some fascinating stories and we are going to share some of those stories with you so you can look for the names on your shirt and realise the sacrifices those who came before us made to establish our great club.
Harry Street only pulled on the blue and amber 75 times but was an archetypal, midfield ball-handler and stopper. Castleford-produced, he initially signed for St Helens after they spotted him playing rugby union as a teenager whilst training as an Army PT instructor in Chepstow, although he played one game for Cas as a guest during the Second World War when home on leave.
Selected mainly at centre, he was sold to Dewsbury, where his elder brother Arthur was a second rower, for £1,000 in order to raise funds to bring winger Stan McCormick to Knowsley Road in 1946. Capped three times for his county and six for England, he was selected as a Lions tourist in 1950, appearing in four Tests; all three against the Aussies and one in New Zealand, gaining the rare distinction of performing for his country in both the forwards – against the green and golds – and returning to his original position in the backs against the Kiwis.
On his return, he moved to Wigan for a record £5,000 fee, bringing instant success to the cherry and whites with two Lancashire Cup final appearances in three seasons and the league title when Bradford were beaten at Huddersfield in ‘52.
In 1955 came a surprise switch to Headingley as the management captured him for £1,500 to shore up a side that had lost six matches in eight and looked to be drifting towards another season of mediocrity.
The impact was near instantaneous, immediately taking over the captaincy from injured Keith McLellan and, although generally quietly spoken, laying down exactly what he expected of the side with precision and humour. Despite going down narrowly, 8-5, on his debut at Thrum Hall on 10 December 1955, Leeds were unbeaten over the Christmas period, Halifax again proving to be their undoing in the Challenge Cup at the third round stage. He picked up the first of eight tries during the 1956-7 season in a big win at Odsal in the first away game of the season and had his revenge over ‘Fax in a memorable third round repeat in the Cup, making a late break for McLellan’s clinching try in one of his finest performances; having posted a brace of tries for the only time against Warrington in the round before.
As the cup winning team broke up the following year, he moved on to Featherstone for whom he played 12 times. His sole goal for Leeds was kicked in a 27-20 defeat at Parkside, one of four different kickers successful with the boot that day for Leeds.
He took his knowledge and communication skills into coaching and, over seven seasons transformed Castleford from perennial strugglers into genuine championship contenders and, as the architect of ‘classy Cas’ laid the platform for the success of the late-sixties and early ‘70s. Skipper at the time John Sheridan called him, “Twenty years ahead of his time,” as Street put in place the club’s first youth policy by persuading the board to retain the area’s brightest talents, such as Alan Hardisty and Keith Hepworth.
One of his most memorable moments came in November 1963, when he masterminded Castleford’s historic 13-12, sole success over the Australian tourists, although his term at the club ended in acrimony when he quit in January 1965, after a row over a car parking space.
Spells at Keighley, Huddersfield and Bradford followed and he was in charge of Yorkshire for 10 years, whilst also a renowned gardener at Harewood House.