Behind the numbers – David Barham – heritage number 1043

David Barham

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.

David Barham was not on the original team sheet for the 1972 Championship Final. Barham, a nippy scrum half who had come through the Leeds Intermediates, was in his debut campaign, the late call up for the Swinton decider, somewhat ironically, his thirteenth starting match in blue and amber.

With Barry Seabourne increasingly beset by injuries, although starting the campaign, a spot emerged in the halves and two youngsters, Chris Sanderson and Barham were promoted into the first team ranks. He made his bow, aged 20, taking over from Seabourne in a comfortable home win over Dewsbury at the end of September, kicking a late goal in a 33-5 success.

His first try was a week later, in a draw at Castleford and despite a run of six undefeated games, including in a big home win over Hull K.R. in the Floodlit Trophy, Seabourne’s return – at Rovers in the league – saw him displaced.

That proved to be Seabourne’s last game for Leeds as he was snapped up by Bradford but the directors immediately moved to fill the void by surprisingly signing Keith Hepworth from Castleford to renew his partnership with Alan Hardisty.

That pushed Barham back down the pecking order with only occasional appearances thereafter, including in a midweek second round Floodlit win at Halifax and a two game streak in January bringing him a try at Batley and as part of the side that gained a merited 15-all draw at St Helens.  

A month later he made his Challenge Cup debut at the Boulevard, Leeds beating Hull 16-5 and the following week was again a winner, at Workington in the league. His first defeat in the colours came in another one-off recall, at Dewsbury in early April, Hepworth seemingly in situ for the end of season finale that saw qualification for the double. Not only were hopes of that dashed by Saints at Wembley but Hepworth reported in sick and pulled out on the morning of the Championship Final a week later, coach Derek Turner immediately drafting side-burned Barham in for what proved to be the game of his life.

Every Leeds player interviewed either at the time or since have recognised his astonishing contribution in the final. Winger Alan Smith probably best summed up their sentiments, “Little Dave Barham played that day. You see again welcomed into the team no problem at all. He made a big, big contribution to that game. That was his Wembley really.”

It was also, effectively, his swansong. In all he played 30 times, five of them off the bench, disappearing off the Headingley first team scene in 1974, his final try coming in a narrow home win over Rochdale.