Headingley celebrates historic past with new heritage tunnel

Before Christmas, Leeds Rhinos officially opened their new look heritage tunnel area that celebrates over 130 years of history of rugby at Headingley Stadium.

In 2019, Leeds Rhinos completed the re-development of the North Stand at Headingley which included three new sets of changing rooms, new male and female officials changing areas and modern medical facilities. Since then an on going programme of has seen the artwork within the tunnel area developed with the completion marked by a special gathering. 

The ‘home’ area of the tunnel is focused on the glittering past of the Leeds club dating back to 1890 when the club was first formed and began playing at Headingley. 130 players are celebrated, ten per position in the team, on a series of light box features that the current squad pass on their way into battle each game along with a special display honouring the golden generation of players in the modern era. Surrounding these images are a list of every player who has played for the club since 1890 along with images and details of every trophy won by the mens and womens teams. 

The main tunnel area between the home and away dressing rooms is a timeline that stretches from 1890 to the modern day highlighting the historic domestic and international games hosted at the stadium along with historic events in Rugby League and around the world to put the events at the stadium in context of what is happening in the wider world. 

The final element of the tunnel project that has been completed in time for the 2022 season is the new entrance onto the field. Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington has brought together some of the most knowledgeable minds from both hemispheres on the history of the game of Rugby League to nominate their top 20 players in the history of the sport. This has been whittled down to the thirty most influential players on the sport who have played at Headingley including Great Britain, French, Australian and New Zealand internationals.  

Jamie Peacock

The panel included a cross-section of personalities from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and France.

Longstanding Fans from Overseas – Johnny Wilkinson; Thomas Keneally OA and  Sir Peter “Mad Butcher” Leitch and nearer home, Ken Hughes, Simon Foster and Lionel Hurst

Leeds Heritage committee member and former referee Bernard Shooman, leading Administrators in Shane Richardson, Nigel Wood, Niel Wood, Kath Hetherington and Eamonn McManus along with former players and coaches Peter Peters, Phil Larder, Mike Stephenson, Brian Noble, Brian McClennan, Richard Agar and Carlos Zalduendo.

Members of the Rugby League media John Ledger, Steve Mascord, Phil Daly and Phil Caplan also gave their opinions along with Rugby League Historians David Middleton, Ian Proctor and Professor Tony Collins.

In all, 75 former players received votes and given the closeness of voting, it has been decided to increase the final list from 20 to 30.  In addition, 4 notable Rugby League Pioneers who all had a connection with Headingley will be featured separately. Albert Baskerville, led the All Golds from New Zealand in 1907 when Headingley staged the First Test; Jean Galia brought the first group of rugby players from France to be coached by the Leeds players at Headingley, Eddie Waring was the Leeds General Manager in the 1940s and a nationally known commentator and, Roy Francis was a ground-breaking Coach at Headingley throughout the 1960s. 

The 30 players recognised in this section are:

Arhtur BEETSON, OAMLewis JONESJohnny RAPER, MBE
Brian BEVANVince KARALIUSMal REILLY, OBE
Billy BOSTON, MBEBrett KENNYGus RISMAN
Clive CHURCHILL, AMWally LEWIS, AMAlbert ROSENFELD
Neil FOX, MBERoger MILLWARD, MBEKevin SINFIELD, OBE
Bob FULTON, AMMal MENINGA, AMPeter STERLING, OAM
Reg GASNIER, AMDally MESSENGERJim SULLIVAN
Albert GOLDTHORPEAlex MURPHY, OBEGarry SCHOFIELD, OBE
Mark GRAHAMMartin OFFIAH, MBETom VAN VOLLENHOVEN
Ellery HANLEY, MBEJamie PEACOCK, MBEHarold WAGSTAFF

The whole concept and design has been created by Vinyline, who themselves have a proud heritage in Rugby League having worked with St Helens on the artwork within their new stadium since it was opened.

Rugby League Headingley Heritage Launch