Phil Cookson

Second Row
Heritage Number


Debut: vs Bradford Northern (A) 19th April 1969

Honours: Championship (Winner: 1972, Finalist: 1973); Challenge Cup (Winner: 1977, 1978, Finalist: 1971, 1972); League Leaders (1969-70, 1971-72); Regal Trophy (Winner: 1972-73), Yorkshire Cup (Winner: 1970-71, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80, 1980-81)

At around the same time that Julie Goodyear was making the role of barmaid Bet Lynch her own in Coronation Street, Leeds had its own ‘blond bombshell’ on account of Phil Cookson’s flowing mane. Signed as a goal kicking back rower from junior rugby in Featherstone – although only landing 10 goals for Leeds, nine as a stop gap in 1976-7 – he went on to become one of the few forwards to score over 100 tries for the club (finishing with 114), in just short of 400 appearances over three decades. Two, notably, came at Wembley; in 1972 in defeat and six years later with the score that set up victory, both against St Helens. He made his debut in an end of regular season clash at Odsal in 1969, alongside to be long term second row partner Graham Eccles, his second appearance coming in a 22-12 Championship semi final win over Salford at Headingley. Although he didn’t make the squad for the decider, David Hick selected on the bench, he played in 15 finals in all for Leeds, not including as a non-playing sub at the Twin Towers in 1971, collecting a full set of winner’s medals in all major competitions, including the club’s first John Player triumph in 1973. He had every asset, seen by appearances at prop on account of his strength and even, occasionally and memorably, on the wing such was his speed.

A wonderful defender and cover tackler, he had great footwork and an angled run that made him hard to stop from close in, most often when tracking John Holmes. He played twice for England during the 1975 World Cup away legs, in draws against both New Zealand in Auckland (17-all) and Australia in Sydney (10 apiece). In addition, on the way over, he was in the side that defeated Papua New Guinea 40-12 at Lloyd Robson Oval before the Kumuls had attained Test status.

An electrician by trade, he also donned the White Rose of Yorkshire once, in a 23-14 defeat at Whitehaven in 1972. On three occasions he finished the season with 15 tries, one of them 1972-3 which included a touchdown in surprise defeat in the Championship final against Dewsbury, a season he played 42 matches in total. He was a regular Yorkshire Cup winner and had a vital hand in two Premiership triumphs, in 1975 when Saints were again the victims and against Bradford four years later at Fartown.

Accorded a joint benefit with Steve Pitchford in 1978-9, he played his last game for Leeds on ‘home’ turf against Featherstone at Post Office Road in September 1981 in a 28-15 loss, having posted his final brace of tries against Wigan the week before.