Free scoring Handley writes his name in Leeds history books

Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley became only the seventh player in the 125 year history of Leeds Rugby League to finish the season as the top try scorer in the competition after he claimed the title ahead of Wigan’s Bevan French on Friday night.

Handley was two tries clear of French ahead of the Warriors’ final game of the season on Friday night against Huddersfield Giants at Emerald Headingley. French failed to cross the whitewash meaning Handley’s total of 14 tries in 17 games took top spot. It was just reward for Handley, who missed out on the top try scorer title last season on the final day of the campaign when St Helens’ Tommy Makinson crossed for a hat trick.

Handley is the first Leeds player to be top try scorer since Ryan Hall in 2011. Hall also won the title in 2009 with Mark Calderwood the only other player to be top try scorer in the summer era in 2005. Danny McGuire famously missed out on the last day of the season in 2004 to Bradford’s Lesley Vainikolo, when the Bulls winger scored a hat trick against St Helens on the last day of the regular season.

In the 1980s and 1990s, no Leeds player managed to finish at top try scorer but the title was virtually part of the furniture at Headingley in the early 1970s. John Atkinson finished as top try scorer in three seasons out of four between 1969 and 1973 with the only time he did not top the count being in 1970-71 when his team mate Bob Haigh was top try scorer with 40 in the season.

In the 1930s one man dominated try scoring in this country, the Toowoomba Ghost Eric Harris. The flying winger from Queensland achieved incredible feats with Leeds in the inter war years finishing as the leagues top try scorer on five separate occasions on his way to becoming Leeds’ all time greatest try scorer. He first finished top of the tree in 1930-31 before repeating the achievement two years later in 1932-33.

In 1935-36, he amassed an unimaginable 63 tries over the course of the campaign and finished as top try scorer in three successive seasons before the Second World War brought an end to his reign.

The first Leeds player to finish as top try scorer was Welshman Billy Evans in 1902-03 with 27 tries in total in the league.