Behind the numbers – Joe Anderson – heritage number 909

Leeds skipper Keith McLellan is lifted up with the trophy as the team celebrate

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.

Prop Joe Anderson has gone down in Leeds rugby legend for a moment of notoriety on the 1957 cup run, an intervention that helped changed the laws of the sport.

Whilst Jeff Stevenson is down in the history books as the player who broke the semi final deadlock with his late, snap drop goal, it was wily Anderson who retrieved possession after Whitehaven had seemingly stifled the Loiners into submission with 40 consecutive play the balls; the end of the unlimited tackle rule traced to that point.

‘Ginger’ was tough, no-nonsense and under-rated, a master of the front row dark arts. Originally signed by Castleford from amateurs Lock Lane, he played for them in the 1950 Yorkshire Cup final, the Glassblowers going down 16-3 to Huddersfield and gained three county caps, all in 1953, and a winner in two of the matches.

A pre Challenge Cup deadline signing in January 1955 for £1,700, popular Alan Horsfall – who was later to return as the kit man at Headingley – also going in part-exchange, Joe made his debut in a 22-10 home win over Featherstone.

A week later, in a convincing defeat at Parkside in the derby with Hunslet, he dislocated his shoulder. Still out for the start of the following season, his return not only provided a cornerstone for a rapidly developing pack but signalled a good cup run to the quarter finals, with wins at Hull and home to Oldham in front of 33,000 fans prior to defeat against Halifax, also at Headingley.

His first of only four tries in blue and amber came in a big win over Warrington at the start of the Cup winning campaign, his second, somewhat ironically, arriving a week later at Huddersfield. Come the Cup at the turn of the year, he was in fine form, paving the way to Wembley with his desperate ball steal, born out of sheer frustration when diving round at marker to get his hands on the leather, Harry Street quickly transferring it to Stevenson who did the rest.

There was a scare in the league at St Helens a week later when his shoulder went again and it looked like he would miss the decider at the Twin Towers, an ‘A’ team game hastily arranged in the run up to enable him to prove his fitness and retake his place in the side.

He opened the following season emphatically with tries against Hull and then Bramley in the county cup but, come the end of the year and with 91 appearances in total, he left for Featherstone.

A second winner’s medal was claimed at Post Office Road almost immediately in the Yorkshire Cup, Leeds beaten by the Colliers in the semi final who then triumphed 15-14 over Hull on his old Headingley stamping ground, with almost 24,000 in attendance.

In all, he played 47 times for Rovers, most notably in the win over the ’59 Kangaroos, retiring in 1961. Away from the game he set up a transport firm in his name based in Selby.