Leeds Rhinos: The Early Years (1903/04) Part 6
Having successfully navigated their way out of the second division, in what was a cruel and embarrassing punishment for The Leeds Club, the side began their maiden voyage in the top flight of the Northern Union. Accordingly, it came with a sizeable bump in official members, rising from 657 to 2,267, meaning that the club were able to make the first profit for over five years. This season saw efforts to increase the number of players on each side, with 54 votes to 24 for the motion to be passed. Unfortunately, bylaws stated that ¾ of the membership have to agree before a reform is enacted.
Nevertheless, Leeds went into the competition in high spirits. That was, at least, until their first game. It was an away defeat at Boughton Rangers, a side they had been tipped to beat. Their next game saw a huge crowd amass at Headingley to witness Hunslet take on The Leeds Club. The club suffered a late defeat at the hands of the local team. Needless to say, it was a disappointing start to the season, and the club were coming in for some criticism.
They were to rally though, losing only three of their next twenty-three matches, making them a potential contender for Championship honours when the Cup games began in March. A weakened Leeds side gained a solid away win over Hull KR in the 1st round, before overcoming Keighley in style in the 2nd round. Ultimately, the side fell to Hill in the 3rd round.
Overall though, the campaign was an extremely successful one for the club. They had overcome the second division, and in their first season as a top flight club they had attained a fifth place finish, for which they were very worthy.
It was also a season which saw another boatload of new players join the squad, with Farrimond, full back, from Birkenhead; F. Wormald, forward, from Oldham; E. Watts, forward, the ex-Millom captain; J. A. Naylor, winger, from Idle; W. D. Llewellyn, centre or wing, from Whitchurch; G. Mennell, forward; H. Smithson, centre; T. Waite, winger and E. Holder, full back joining the squad.
Needless to say, Leeds had proven their salt in the top division, and cemented their reputation as a real force within the sport – something that the following 100 years would attest to.