Leeds Rhinos – The Early Years (1902/03) Part 5
The Leeds Club’s first season in the newly formed North Rugby League had been a roaring success as the team cantered to a top place finish, winning 22 of their 26 games. It was a season which saw their new stars gel to form a tremendous footballing side, but the 1902/03 season saw an even more critical period for the club.
The Northern Union had now decided in favour of splitting into two divisions of eighteen clubs each. It had also been decided that the only way the Club would be re-admitted to the league was upon the condition that they would join the second division. For a club which topped the league last season, this was something of an indignity.
However, Leeds took the challenge on and rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion, finishing the season in second place and ensuring their automatic promotion to the first division. This was on top of the clubs superb performance in the Northern Union Cup Competition. They were drawn away from home for every fixture, but still managed to gain superb victories over strong Dewsbury and Wakefield teams, before losing to Hunslet at Parkside.
Part of that success was predicated on the back of a handful of new additions to the playing staff, as they built their first big professional side. Those names were W. Evans, T. Llewellyn and J. P Jenkins. The trio of Welshman scored 67 tries in the promotion campaign. In addition, the team were bolstered by the acquisition of E. Barnett, W. Woolf, J. W. Stead, from Broughton Rangers, and Fred Webster. Webster made his first appearance in the Leeds jersey on the eve of his twentieth birthday, but was to put in 543 appearances across his thirty-eighth year before he retired from the Headingley arena. Quite an astonishing record.
Their next season would see their maiden efforts in the newly minted first division, and that’s where we’ll pick up in our next article.
Brought to you by Davis Stringer the Leeds Physiotherapist