Leeds Rhinos Foundation

Leeds Rhinos Foundation

Changing Lives Through Sport

Pictured here from left to right Peter Benson, Mitch Garbutt, Gary Hetherington, Frank Watson, the grandson of JW Birch, Harry Jepson OBE, Dave Makin and Dr Neil Kaiper-Holmes
Pictured here from left to right Peter Benson, Mitch Garbutt, Gary Hetherington, Frank Watson, the grandson of JW Birch, Harry Jepson OBE, Dave Makin and Dr Neil Kaiper-Holmes
Leeds Rhinos Foundation Heritage Committee records new Heritage numbers
27 October 2015, 10:59
By Leanne Flynn
The Leeds Rhinos Foundation Heritage Committee has completed the task of giving a unique number to every player who has made a single appearance for the club, going back to the first game in the Northern Union, staged at Leigh on 7th September 1895.
In total, 1,419 men have worn the famous colours from Bob Armstrong in that first match, through to recent signing Mitch Garbutt.

"This an absolutely invaluable historical record and tells the history of the club through those that have enthralled by their deeds," said Heritage Committee chairman Phil Caplan.

"Originally we envisaged this taking up to five years to compile and verify but the tremendous research undertaken predominantly by Dave Makin, assisted by Peter Benson, has meant that not only have we been able to do it in the 125th year of Headingley being opened, but also on the 120th anniversary of the birth of the sport," he added.

When the 1895-6 season began, the first player awarded a number, Bob Armstrong, was 26-years- old and already had 11 years' experience as a forward, beginning playing with junior club Burley Hornets. After a season with the Westfield Rovers he joined Kirkstall, where he was spotted and signed by the Leeds 'A' team.
Other notable numbers are; Bob Walton, who scored the first try at Headingley in the Northern Union (14), Joseph Aloysius Lavery (215), the club's first overseas signing, First World War hero Samuel 'Billy' Jarman (225), Arthur Clues (847), Benjamin Lewis Jones (896), leading appearance-maker John Holmes (1022) and Garry Schofield (1183)

Number 1,000 is Syd Hynes, the first-ever player/coach at Leeds, who won every medal with the club.
Phil Caplan added, "The most intriguing number is 655, the only 'A.N.Other' in the list. His sole appearance was at York on 29th November, 1941 when Leeds turned up a player short as a result of call-ups for the War.

"A soldier from the crowd volunteered to play, began at scrum-half, ended on the wing and disappeared after the game without leaving his name, never to be seen or heard of again.

"We would love to fill in that gap."

At the official launch of the heritage numbers at a lunch in the Taverners Suite, relatives of John Wilkinson Birch (130) who came across from Leeds Parish Church in 1901 collected his certificate, while Leeds's oldest surviving player, Frank 'Shanks' Watson (865) who debuted on 1st October 1949, along with Mitch Garbutt (1419) were greeted by Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington (1093)

"As a former player, I know how much this number means and what an honour it is to be put into historical context at this club," Hetherington said.

"It is a massively valuable part of the history of Leeds and we will be holding a number of events in conjunction with the Leeds Rhinos Player's Association and our president Harry Jepson to present certificates to all the players still living and descendants."

As part of the commemoration of the careers of retiring modern greats Kevin Sinfield (1298), Jamie Peacock (1355) and Kylie Leuluai (1363) at Friday's game against New Zealand, the trio will be presented with their certificates on the field post-match.

Guest players on the night and former Rhinos Adrian Morley (1266) and Ali Lauitiiti (1347) will also be formally given their numbers.
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