For Rugby League football, and the Leeds Club in particular, as fine a centre threequarter as the game has known! Born in the gold-mining town of Gym pie in 1906, Jeff recalls his youth with misty-eyed nostalgia … the carefree miles he ran, swerving and zigzagging, and shouting in triumph whenever a discarded cigarette packet yielded its precious card … the family moving ninety miles south, to Brisbane … the hours he spent with his brothers, Tom and ‘Arch’, planning tactical moves to exploit in junior rugby matches … that never-to-beforgotten message out of the blue, tapped out in morse, even as he was training as a Sea Cadet some twenty miles out in the Pacific .. .JEFF MOORES SELECTED TO PLAY FOR WESTERN SUBURBS TOMORROW … and how the skipper changed course immediately in order to get the excited young hopeful back home in time. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough! Jeff developed so rapidly as a mettlesome stand-off of rare merit that by 1925, at the age of 19, he was touring New Zealand with Queensland and playing his part nobly in a famous victory over the mighty All Blacks. Nor did he spare New South Wales a year later, his two tries and eight goals being the major contribution towards a sensational 38-point rout. The talent was exceptional, the action prompt when the embargo on Dominion players was lifted in 1927, Leeds signing ‘the best stand-off in Australia’, along with Frank O’Rourke, the Sydney University centre, on the recommendation of ‘Dinny’ Campbell, the former Headingley favourite.
Naturally, their eagerly awaited arrival at the old Leeds Midland station on Monday, 5th September, hit the sporting headlines; so, alas, did their debut just five days later, lowly Bradford Northern recording their first win at Headingley since 1908, and that after being trounced 61 – 3 and 44- 3 in the previous two seasons. The shock was unpleasant, not least for Jeff, for ‘lost’ was an unpardonable four-letter word that had no place in his vocabulary.
Even so, partnered by Evan Williams, he quickly established himself as a commanding figure at stand-off, giving excellent service to his ‘threes’, yet ever ready to counter the opposition’s bottling-up tactics with the intrepid corkscrew runs that he had practised unwittingly as a youth. As for defence, he would take on all-comers, head-on if need be, with crunching vice-like tackles. His commitment was total, and the new M-type virus so highly infectious that the Loiners ended the season in 2nd place, and would no doubt have accounted for Featherstone Rovers in the Semi-Final play-off had they been able to call on their three tourists, Jim Brough, Joe Thompson and Mel Rosser.
For the 22-year-old to be elected captain by his fellow professionals, many of them seasoned internationals, after less than a year at Headingley, was a remarkable vote of confidence. Nor was it misplaced! Within a matter of weeks, when the chips were down in the Yorkshire Cup Semi-Final at Crown Flatt, with Leeds down to twelve men and trailing by 3 points with just half-an-hour to go, there was Jeff, alert to possibilities from the moment Dewsbury conceded a penalty in front of their own posts, coolly putting the unmarked Gallagher over for the equaliser with an unexpected kick to the corner, and then signing the reprieve personally with a couple of tries in the space of five minutes. After that, it was more than fitting that a fortnight later he should be the one to raise the Cup aloft at stormswept Belle Vue, for only the second time in the Club’s history. What’s more he very nearly laid his hands on the coveted League Championship Trophy, too, the third-placed Loiners losing 0 – 2 to Huddersfield in the Final. A leader of indomitable courage and resource, resolutely committed to shaping the destiny of his team whatever the bludgeonings of chance, Jeff’s head was bloody but still unbowed at the end of his second term as captain in 1929-30. Forget the agonising home defeat at the hands of Hunslet in the 1st Round of the Yorkshire Cup; forget that Christmas was far from white that year, with just one win to show from a seven-match sequence; forget, also, that squalid 2nd Round dog-fight at Headingley with St Helens, in which Moores himself was sent off, along with Pascoe and Halfpenny, and two more were crippled by brutally crude ‘tackles’.
Remember, rather, that Leeds rallied to make yet another brave bid for the Championship, with a rousing semi-final win against the odds at Knowsley Road and an oh-so-near 2 – 2 draw against Huddersfield in the Final, yet only to lose the replay by ten points to nil, albeit without their injured captain.
Of far greater significance for the Club in the long term, however, was the management’s mid-season decision to redeploy the backs, with Jeff at centre. What he may have felt about the switch is unrecorded; what Castleford and Wakefield said when he ran in four scorching tries against each of them is no doubt still unprintable, even in this permissive age! Not that they were the only ones to suffer, for he finished the season with a 20-try tally and sailed for home in the summer, charged with the task of finding a right-wing partner to match the exciting potential of newly-signed Stan Smith on the left.
The timing of his arrival in Queensland may have owed something to providence, but there was never any question as to who was responsible for Eric Harris’ meteoric rise to stardom. Insisting from the outset that his protege should neither stray from his touchline patrol nor overrun the ball, Jeff proceeded week by week to reveal in masterly fashion all the arts and attributes of unselfish centre play: incisive speed, as he threaded his way through labyrinthine defences; the all-important straightening burst; the precision timing of the try-making pass; and, above all, a self-sacrificial willingness to absorb the bruising brunt of many a late tackle so that his partner could accelerate clear. Never before had Headingley seen service like this! Never before, either, had a Leeds team enjoyed a more successful season, with both the Yorkshire Challenge Cup and the Yorkshire Championship Cup on display, to compensate for finishing as League Championship runners-up for the third consecutive year. All the greater, therefore, must have been Jeff’s disappointment when he was unaccountably relieved of the captaincy for 1931-32, but his commitment to the cause remained undiminished, particularly in the triumphant R.L. Cup campaign. A crucial 1st Round try at The Boulevard, another in the SemiFinal replay against Halifax, and one can readily imagine his justifiable glow of pride and satisfaction as Eric Harris, the player he had groomed to greatness, strode into immortality in the Final at Central Park.
Alas, the sequence of events in 1932-33 unfolded like some Greek tragedy, casting a shadow of dismay and bewildered disbelief. In November, despite severe concussion, Jeff had been the hero of the hour at Fartown, putting paid to Wakefield Trinity with two magnificent tries in the Yorkshire Cup Final.
Yet barely four months later, after sustaining a badly broken nose in a 3rd Round cup-tie versus Hull at Headingley and arranging for private treatment at The Belmont Nursing Home, the Club categorically refused to reimburse the costs incurred. Could the Directors possibly have been so misguided as to imagine that a player whose rock-hard, do-or-die determination they had applauded match by match over a period of almost six seasons would withdraw his claim and chicken out? Be that as it may, whatever the rights and wrongs, and comparatively trifling as the sum in dispute was, he was placed on the open-to-transfer list and eventually joined York. To the fair-minded man on the terrace, whose judgment was unclouded by ‘matters of principle’ and cheerfully paid his bob to see the best, it was incomprehensible!
Nor did the trauma end there, for no sooner had the Headingley curtain gone up for the opening match of a new season, with York the visitors, than Jeff was riled into indiscretion and heading for the dressing rooms amid a cruel cacophony of catcalls and boos, orchestrated by mindless morons with short memories, who only months earlier had been cheering him to the echo. To face such a barrage and then return in November to lead his new colleagues to a stirring Yorkshire Cup Final victory over Hull Kingston Rovers must have been sweet beyond measure!
Taking over as Licensee of York’s delightful Mason’s Arms in 1934, and joining up with Eric Harris for the last time on 6th May 1935, on the occasion of a specially arranged King George Jubilee Trust match between a Rugby League XIII and France at Headingley, Jeff served the York club loyally and well for six years, calling it a day and heading Down Under for the duration, with his wife and daughter, when Prime Minister Chamberlain stopped pussyfooting around in September 1939.
Returning to the Mason’s Arms in 1946, and subsequently Mine Host at The Knavesmire Hotel, Barrowby’s Wheatsheaf Inn and Thorner’s Mexborough Arms, Jeff finally settled in Scarborough in 1962 as proprietor of a ‘Sweets, Tobacconist and Newsagent’ shop in Victoria Road. It was there, shortly before his retirement in 1982, that he was confronted by a smash-and-grab hoodlum, brandishing a knife and demanding the takings or else! Or else, it was! One growl from 75-year-old Jeff, as he reached for his stick, and theintruder fled for his life, and I don’t blame him! With his wife, Cissie, to share his retirement on Scarborough’s South Cliff, and his daughter Jane in nearby Scalby Village, there are no regrets, only rich memories.
A centre nonpareil; a great captain, who led by example in good times and bad, and would never meekly submit to the fell clutch of circumstance: a man whose tempered steel is richly veined with kindliness and shafts of humour.