World Cup Wednesdays: Emerald Headingley set for even more international firsts in 2021

Each Wednesday in the build up the 2021 Rugby League World Cups, we will have a special feature as we build up to the biggest ever World Cup in the game’s history looking at those who helped create the legacy and who will be aiming to make their own history this Autumn.

One of the great parts of your country hosting a World Cup is to see new teams emerge on the international stage. In 2021, Emerald Headingley will host games featuring Jamaica (mens) and Brazil (womens) for the first ever time in a World Cup fixture. 

Emerald Headingley Stadium will host more games at the 2021 World Cup than any other venue with three games in the mens tournament adding to four matches from the ground breaking Women’s World Cup. The stadium hosted the 1970 World Cup Final as well so its perhaps surprising to recall that back at the game’s Centenary World Cup in 1995, a stadium that was at the birth of the game and the international element as well in 1908 only hosted one match. 

That game saw Phil Larder’s England take on South Africa in a one sided contest however the arrival of the men from the Rainbow nation did continue a link between Headingley and South Africa that stretched back over half a century. 

Back in 1959, Leeds captured Springbok Wilf Rosenberg (heritage number 942). Born in Cape Town in 1934, his family moved to Australia during his early years before returning to South Africa in 1948. He gained selection for three Tests against the 1955 British Lions and was a regular for three years in the famous green shirt. He would possibly never even have considered a professional rugby career, had it not been for Van Vollenhoven and Prinsloo joining St Helens. As it was, the offer of a lucrative four-year contract, coupled with an assurance that he would be able to continue his dentistry studies at Leeds University, was far too tempting to refuse.

Acceptance in principle was simple; signing on the dotted line almost made Rugby League history! Unable to fly to England for a further fortnight, because of his impending marriage in Johannesburg, he granted powers of attorney to his father, who met Mr George Airey, the Leeds Chairman, in London, just a couple of days before the R.L. Cup deadline, to endorse the contract and sign the official Registration Form on his son’s behalf. Legal and above board, it all certainly was, but the Cup and Rules Committee wisely declined to create a precedent, ruling the form invalid.

Arriving with his bride in mid-February, and opting eventually for a four- year course in Dentistry, Wilf took time to settle before eventually finding his home on the wing in March 1960, when he teamed up on the right with Derek Hallas, a nine-match sequence yielding eleven tries of searing pace and unflinching resolution. The following year he set a new post War record for tries in a season after bagging his 44th try to send Leeds to the Championship Final. 

Regrettably, for all he played in the Final at Odsal, the try against St Helens was to be his last in Leeds colours. He was transferred to Hull at his own request, and shared a Boulevard debut in December 1961 with the late Clive Sullivan. 

Bowing out at The Boulevard in December 1964 against Leeds he returned home to South Africa to set up in practice as a Dental Surgeon. In January 2019, Wilf passed away in hospital in Israel after suffering a stroke three days earlier.

Two great Leeds wingers, Francis Cummins and Wilf Rosenberg back in 2017

Following in Rosenberg’s footsteps in 1961 was forward Louis Neumann (heritage number 962). Neumann was signed by Leeds from the Thistles rugby club in Western Cape in 1960

He gained a wealth of rugby league experience with Leeds, playing as a loose forward or second row after making his debut against Dewsbury at Headingley in November 1961. 

He spent six seasons at Headingley playing 123 games for the club before a move Down Under saw him sign for the famous Eastern Suburbs (Sydney Roosters) for the 1967 season. During his time at the Roosters, he became known as a punishing defender and constructive ball player who was always in the thick of the heavy work.

His badge of office were two cauliflower ears and assorted facial scars where he had been stitched together. After the departure of the great Roosters coach, Jack Gibson, Louis was made captain coach for the 1969 season and remains the only South African to have been captain and coach in first grade league in Australia. He left the Roosters at the end of the 1971 season after 5 seasons

After a distinguished career with Leeds and Eastern Suburbs, Louis moved to Orange in the NSW country competition where he captain/coached Orange Ex-services to two grand finals in the early 1970s. He passed away in 2003. 

The Leeds team in 1966 with Louis Neumann in the back row second from the right

Back in 1995, South Africa were making their first ever appearance in the World Cup and found themselves in a pool with hosts England, holders Australia and established force Fiji. 

They were heavily beaten in all three games in the tournament they bowed out with a certain amount of pride regained when they faced England at Headingley in front of a crowd of 14,041.

“They made me proud,” said their coach, Tony Fisher. “I said all along that it was a learning process and they have showed how quickly they can learn.”

Fans who were at the game might remember a particular incident when Chris Joynt made a break, spotted a flash of white on the wing and passed to the touch judge.

As The Independent’s correspondent Dave Hadfield remarked, ‘The official was at fault as well. Infected by the general malaise, he failed to cut inside and take the pass for what would have been an easy try.’

England scores tries with reasonable regularity and built up a respectable winning margin without ever becoming wholly convincing.

The successes were limited to Nick Pinkney, who scored two good tries, one from 80 yards, Daryl Powell, who engineered most of England’s points, and Phil Clarke, who led the side energetically in the absence of Shaun Edwards.

England had further injury worries in the game with Martin Offiah not at his best and John Bentley limping out of the game with a hamstring injury.

In the South African team that day was Tim Fourie, who was playing at Dewsbury at the time. He would go on to make Headingley his home but in the fifteen man code as a mainstay of Phil Davies’ early Leeds Tykes teams. 

Tim Fourie in action for Leeds Tykes

ENGLAND: Cook (Leeds); Bentley (Halifax), Pinkney (Keighley), Mather (Wigan), Offiah (Wigan); Powell (Keighley), Goulding (St Helens); Harrison (Halifax), Cassidy (Wigan), Platt (Auckland Warriors), Haughton (Wigan), Joynt (St Helens), Clarke (Sydney City Roosters, capt). Substitutes: Radlinski (Wigan) for Bentley, 22; Broadbent (Sheffield) for Harrison, 40; Sampson (Castleford) for Platt, 40; Smith (Castleford) for Powell, 63.

SOUTH AFRICA: Van Wyk (Eastern Reds); Koombe (Durban), Fourie (Dewsbury), Boshoff (Dewsbury), Ballot (Bay of Plenty); Johnson (Workington), Alkema (Barea); Watts, Van Deventer (both Dewsbury), Booysen (Dewsbury, capt), Alberts (Pretoria), Williams, Mudgeway (both Durban). Substitutes: Cloete (Barea) for Van Deventer, 4; Visser (Dewsbury) for Williams, 17; Jennings (South Queensland) for Mudgeway, 35; Williams for Booysen, 48; Lubbe (Dewsbury) for Alberts, 62.

Referee: D Manson (Australia).


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