Rarely has a cup deadline signing repaid itself so rapidly or the outlay been as significant. In January 1961 and following in the footsteps of Harold Buck some forty years earlier – who set a new transfer high water mark when he traded the south of the city for the north – loose forward Brian Shaw did likewise.
At the time, the record was held by Ike Southward but on the eve of the cup register closing, a deal was brokered that saw the assiduous Great Britain international move from Parkside to Headingley for a higher fee. Only that other players were involved meant that the negotiations did not sit alongside that of Buck’s in the record books, the Leeds Board handing over £9,500 in cash with hooker Bernard Prior and utility Norman Burton donning the myrtle and flame in exchange, which valued the transaction at £13,250.
His surprise signing for Leeds was a quick negotiation, worked for all parties and hit the headlines. Shaw’s arrival proved to be the final piece of a jigsaw that enabled the Loiners to claim the one prize they so desired but that had eluded them. The year before, he had played a key role in Great Britain reclaiming the World Cup featuring in victories over France at Station Road and in the clinching tie, when holders Australia were downed 10-3 in front of nearly 33,000 at Odsal. In the traditional end of tournament encounter against the Rest of the World, back in Bradford two days later but in front of a tenth of the gate, he posted a try in a high scoring GB triumph.
A product of the renowned and prolific Hunslet schools system, he signed for the Parkside outfit from Old Lane Youth Club in Beeston for the sum of £25 in 1952. Rapidly establishing himself, his course to fame was the reverse of the norm, beginning as a prop and ending up at the back of the scrum where he could ally his ball handling ability to his barrel-chested physical power.
Aged 23, in 1956, he won his first two Test caps as a cornerstone of the pack that regained the Ashes then becoming part of the great Parkside back row alongside Geoff Gunney and Harry Poole. His experiences from previously being a member of the front row union also meant that he was a genuine tough guy and granite tackler at the back of the scrum who opposite numbers feared.
He loved to tackle, was terrific in cover and, according to contemporary reports, when he shot across the pitch, “you could see the joy in his eyes and the wingman could have had no idea of what was about to hit him.” At international level, renowned hard man and to be Leeds coach Derek Turner always said that Brian was the one player he loved lining up alongside.
Domestically, he was a mainstay of the Hunslet side that peaked when reaching the 1959 Championship Final, after memorably beating Wigan at Central Park, 22-11 in the semi in which he was outstanding. Hunslet lost the final 44-22 to St. Helens in front of 50,000 at Odsal Stadium, the game breaking try a spectacular 80 metre effort from Tom van Vollenhoven in a match rated as one of the best ever.
In all he played over 300 games for Leeds’ biggest rivals and earned five Great Britain caps while there, also appearing in an international against France prior to his World Cup exploits.
Eschewing a benefit to go to Headingley, although he did receive a share of the transfer fee, his eagerly anticipated debut in blue and amber was delayed by a week as he picked up his final GB cap, also against the French, scoring a try in a 27-8 win at St Helens.
His Leeds bow came in a 6-0 home victory over Leigh but Challenge Cup glory was denied when Wigan snatched a first round draw at Headingley and inflicted the Loiners’ heaviest defeat in the competition for 48 years in taking the replay 32-7. A try scorer in each of consecutive home victories over Batley and Keighley, he quickly settled in as Leeds completed the campaign top of the standings for the first time in their history.
Setting a huge defensive lead in Championship semi final success over Saints, in part recompense for that defeat in the final two years earlier, he was similarly steadfast in the decider, his second at Odsal in three years. This time no heartbreak just joy as he combined with Jack Fairbank in the build up to the opening try and, capitalising on Barry Simms’ near constant supply of ball from the scrums, was a constant menace with his darting runs off the back of them.
He was again involved in the build up to the third and game breaking try, this time in concert with Trevor Whitehead. With Leeds seemingly cruising at 15-0 and a quarter of an hour remaining, his pass was intercepted by Jim Challinor who romped clear from half way. No matter, Leeds finished the stronger and a large slice of the huge outlay on him had instantly been repaid.
Injury saw him miss out on the Yorkshire Cup final – a loss to Wakefield – the following season but he was a virtual fixture thereafter until his final match, a 14-6 win at St Helens in which he scored a try, Leeds’ first success at Knowsley Road for 17 seasons.
In all he made 105 appearances in his three and a half year spell, crossing for 15 touchdowns although only once landing a brace, against Hull at the Boulevard in August 1963.
After he retired, he was mine host at the Tommy Wass pub on Dewsbury Road. Remembered with huge affection for his never-say-die efforts, he sadly passed away in February 2011, aged 79.