Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos
Full name Leeds Rhinos Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) The Loiners
The Rhinos
Founded 1870 (1870)
Ground Headingley Stadium,
Headingley, Leeds
Ground Capacity 21,500
Owner Leeds Rugby
Chairman Paul Caddick
Gary Hetherington
Head coach Brian McDermott
League Super League
2016 9th
Website Club home page

Leeds Rhinos R.L.F.C. is a professional rugby league club based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Founded in 1870, they compete in the Super League, the top-level European rugby league club competition, and have won the competition a record seven times since its inception in 1996, most recently in 2015. They play their home matches at Headingley Stadium.

The club was known simply as Leeds until the end of the 1996 season. They are also historically known as the Loiners, referring to the demonym for a native of Leeds.

In 1895, Leeds was one of twenty-two rugby clubs which broke away from the Rugby Football Union and formed what is now the Rugby Football League. Leeds joined the Super League in 1996 and became Leeds Rhinos in 1997.[1] The club is owned by the same company that owns Yorkshire Carnegie rugby union team, who also play their home matches at Headingley.

Leeds have won thirteen Challenge Cups, ten League championships and three World Club Challenge titles.


1870–1920: Foundation and early years

In 1864, H. I. Jenkinson placed an advert in the Leeds Mercury inviting players to meet up at Woodhouse Moor a few days a week from 7 am to 8 am. That advert attracted more than 500 members. From this interest several clubs were formed, including Leeds St John's.[2]

Leeds St John's was formed in 1870 and was originally known as the "Old Blue and Ambers". The club played at the Militia Barracks from 1870 to 1888 before moving to Cardigan Fields, near Headingley, Leeds.[3] Membership was originally confined to the church classes but was soon expanded. By 1887 St John's had reached its first cup final, the Yorkshire Cup losing to Wakefield Trinity.

The city of Leeds had an abundance of rugby football clubs and although members of the Yorkshire RFU[4] (which was in turn a constituent body of the RFU), it was decided to form a ‘more local’ association. It was for this reason that the Leeds & District organisation was formalised when a meeting took place at the Green Dragon Hotel, Leeds on 27 September 1888. The foundation clubs were Bramley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Kirkstall, Leeds Parish Church, Leeds St John’s and Wortley.[5]

In 1888 the Cardigan Estate was sold at auction and Lot 17a was purchased by a group of Leeds citizens, who intended to form the city's leading sports club. Lot 17a became what is now Headingley Stadium.

Leeds St John's played its final season under that name in 1889–90, before becoming the football section of Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Co Ltd the following season. With Headingley still being completed, Leeds' first game was staged at Cardigan Fields, the home side defeating Otley. The first game at Headingley was played on 20 September 1890, when Manningham were beaten by one try and one dropped goal to nil.

In 1892 27,654 spectators, a then record in British rugby, attended the third round showdown between Leeds and Halifax at Headingley.[6]

A special general meeting was held in 1895 which voted decisively to support the breakaway Northern Union as a founder member, resulting in two resignations from the club. Leeds' début in the Northern Union was a 6–3 success at Leigh on 7 September 1895, the inaugural day of the new competition.[7]

In 1901, the Leeds Parish Church team disbanded and put all of its players at Leeds' disposal. That same year saw the formation of the Northern Rugby League, with a number of leading clubs leaving the Yorkshire League and the Lancashire League and joining the new competition. Leeds was not admitted until the following year when it was placed in the newly formed second division and quickly gained promotion as runners-up to Keighley.

Leeds City FC joined soccer's Second Division in 1905–06, and finished sixth out of 20 clubs in the club's first season. Rugby's monopoly with the locals seemed to have been broken, with Leeds Rugby League's average gate numbers falling by nearly 50% in that first league season.[8]

In 1910, Leeds came of age with the team finishing in sixth place in the league, but that was just a warm-up for the Challenge Cup campaign. Leeds beat Hull Kingston Rovers, Rochdale Hornets, Keighley and then scraped through 11–10 against Warrington in the semi-final before meeting Hull in the final. Rain on the morning of the game meant conditions were against flowing rugby. The scores were level at 7–7 with fifteen minutes left. However, neither team could break the deadlock, and the final went to a replay two days later, again at Fartown, Huddersfield. Leeds made no mistake this time and ran out convincing 26–12 winners having led 16–0 at half-time.

The club lost many players to the First World War; of a total of fifty-one players who served in the military, fifteen were killed. The usual league programme was interrupted during 1914–18. During this period, Leeds played a number of "guest players" in the Emergency League competition. The Headingley club reached the Championship final for the first time in 1915, but lost 35–2 to Huddersfield, then a record score. The Emergency League was then suspended. Leeds reverted to rugby union during the First World War to play a one-off challenge game against the Royal Navy Depot from Plymouth in 1917. This was a precursor to the following Christmas when two Challenge games were organised between the two sides but this time with one of each code. The Navy won the union game 9–3 on Christmas Eve but proved equally adept at league recording a 24–3 win on 28 December.

1921–1942: Inter-war period

In 1921, Harold Buck became the game’s first £1,000 transfer when he moved from Hunslet to Leeds.[9][10]

On Saturday 27 October 1934, Leeds and Wakefield Trinity met in the final of the Yorkshire Cup at Crown Flatt, Dewsbury. The match was played in front of a crowd of 22,598 and ended in a 5–5 draw.[11] Four days later the two clubs drew again, with Leeds eventually lifting the trophy after a second replay, the only occasion it took three attempts to settle a Yorkshire Cup Final. A total of 52,402 spectators watched the three games.

Leeds forward Joe Thompson was the top point scorer for both the 1929–30 and 1927–28 seasons.

In 1937, Leeds paid the stand-off Vic Hey a then-record £1,400 signing-on fee to lure him from Australia. Vic was regarded as a major loss to the Australian game and this contributed to the RFL imposing a ban on international transfers, which lasted until 1940.[12]

In 1938, Leeds played Swinton in the Rugby Football League Championship semi-final. Leeds won the match 5 points to 2 to set up a history-making all-Leeds clash with neighbours Hunslet in the final. The match was played at the Elland Road football ground, to accommodate a huge demand from the city’s rugby league supporters. Over 54,000 people watched the game, a then record for a match in England. Hunslet triumphed 8–2 to take the title.[13]

Leeds won the Challenge Cup in 1941 and 1942.[14]

1950–1960: Post-war

Following the Second World War, Leeds club struggled to make a serious impact in rugby league despite having a financial advantage over the majority of other teams. Arthur Clues was the first Australian to come and play in Britain after the war and the great Australian second rower was signed by Leeds. His rivalry with the Great Britain and Wales prop Frank Whitcombe who played for Bradford Northern was legendary. Their confrontations on the field during the Leeds v Bradford Northern local derby games are part of rugby league folklore.

It was not until the late 1950s, when in 1957 the club secured its first post-war Challenge Cup victory, that the young side being built began to show signs of what was to come. Joe Warham came to Leeds as coach in 1958 and a Yorkshire Cup triumph followed, but the side still lacked enough quality to compete at the top of the Lancashire section of the competition in which it was then playing.

However, "the Loiners" (their historical nickname) were to establish themselves as a dominant force by the end of the coming decade. In 1960 Dai Prosser was appointed to assist Joe Warham with the coaching duties and the club signed a new back three of Jack Fairbank, Brian Shaw and Dennis Goodwin to strengthen the forward pack.[15] The recruitment paid off: the club was crowned Champions for the first time in 1961 with Lewis Jones leading them to a 25–10 victory over Warrington in the Championship Final at Odsal Stadium, Bradford.[16]

1960–1980: First Championship titles

In the late 1960s, under the guidance of Roy Francis, Leeds repeatedly finished top of the league. The club contested perhaps the most memorable of all Wembley occasions, the "watersplash final" of 1968, which was played despite a downpour that saturated the pitch. It produced the most dramatic of finishes, when Lance Todd trophy winner Don Fox had the easiest of conversions to win it for Wakefield Trinity, but missed it to leave Leeds 11–10 winners.

Francis then quit the club to take up a coaching position in Australia, and Joe Warham again took charge as coach, on an interim basis, midway through the 1969 campaign.[17][18] The Championship trophy duly returned to Headingley for the second time after a tough final against Castleford at Odsal Stadium.[19]

In 1970 Leeds returned to the Championship final, and Odsal, but lost to St Helens despite having taken an early lead. Tables were turned in December when the same teams met in the final of the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy, Leeds emerging victorious this time.[20]

Coached by Derek "Rocky" Turner, Leeds returned to Wembley in 1971 and 1972 but lost out both times – in 1971 losing 24–7 to rank outsiders Leigh and suffering the indignity of captain Syd Hynes being the first man to 'take an early bath' at Wembley.[21][22] A third championship, in 1972, provided consolation.

Eric Ashton (former Wigan and Great Britain centre) coached Leeds for the 1973–74 season before leaving to coach St Helens.[23]

Leeds continued to collect silverware: the Regal Trophy in 1973 and the Premiership (the then-current form of the championship playoff) in 1975.[24] The team held the Yorkshire Cup seven times between 1969 and 1980.

1976–77 was a season of mixed emotions. The Salford versus Leeds league match was abandoned after 38 minutes when Chris Sanderson of Leeds suffered a fatal injury. Leeds led 5–2, but the game was declared null and void and not replayed. The club recovered to win the Challenge Cup at the end of the season. This success was repeated in 1978, in a classic final against St Helens at Wembley Stadium with Leeds completing what was then a record comeback, from 10–0 down. Former captain Syd Hynes was coach on both occasions.

This was followed up with another Premiership win, in 1979.[25] However, these victories were the 'last hurrah' of the great 1960s and 1970s sides and a barren spell followed in the '80s.


Leeds' only triumphs were the 1984 John Player Trophy (beating Widnes) under coach Maurice Bamford and the Yorkshire Cup in 1980 (beating Hull Kingston Rovers) and 1988(beating Castleford).[26] Leeds were beaten finalists in the John Player Trophy four times in the 1980s and '90s.

Between December 1986 and April 1988, Maurice Bamford was coach of Leeds.

Leeds eventually returned to Wembley for a Challenge Cup final appearance in 1994 against Wigan.[27] The game was memorable for a length of the field try by Martin Offiah, considered by many to be one of the greatest tries ever scored, which clinched the game for Wigan. Leeds returned to Wembley a year later, again to face Wigan again, but were beaten more easily.[28]

1996–2003: Start of the Super League era

In 1996 Gary Hetherington sold his controlling interest in Sheffield Eagles and joined Paul Caddick to take over the ailing Leeds C F & A Co Ltd, owners and operators of Headingley Stadium and Leeds Rugby League Club. 1996 marked the beginning of summer rugby as the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season.[29]

In 1997, the club renamed itself Leeds Rhinos. Dean Bell took over as head coach following his retirement as a player at Auckland Warriors.[30] Iestyn Harris joined Leeds that year for a record-breaking £350,000 transfer[31] and was appointed captain in his first full season at the age of only 21. Leeds experienced great financial difficulty and even flirted with relegation as they won only six matches all year and finished third from bottom in Super League, above only Oldham and Paris.

Bell became head of the Academy team. In 1998 Graham Murray replaced Bell as joined the Leeds Rhinos as head coach and them team reached the inaugural Grand Final, at Old Trafford, however they were beaten by Wigan.[32] In 1999 Leeds finally landed their first silverware in a decade, and their first Challenge Cup for over 20 years, with a convincing 52–16 win over London at Wembley.[33][34]

In 2000, Leeds reached the Challenge Cup Final but finished runners up to Yorkshire rivals Bradford at Murrayfield, Edinburgh.[35] Daryl Powell became coach of Leeds after he retired from playing in 2001.[36] In 2003, despite being top of the table at the time, Leeds announced Tony Smith would replace Darryl Powell as Head Coach for the 2004 season.[37] Leeds returned to the Challenge Cup final in 2003, again to face Bradford, this time at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff where they were beaten 22–20 .[38]

2004–present: Golden Era

Leeds celebrating their 2008 Grand Final victory

The Rhinos ended their 32-year wait for a league championship by winning the 2004 Super League Grand Final[39] This marked the start of over a decade of on-field success.[40] As champions of the previous year, Leeds played in the 2005 World Club Challenge beating the 2004 Australian premiers Canterbury Bulldogs. Leeds next trophy was the 2007 Grand Final which marked the final game as Coach of the Club for Tony Smith.[41] He was replaced by former New Zealand international team coach Brian McClennan.[42] Further success followed in 2008 when Leeds again beat Australian opposition in the 2008 World Club Challenge, Melbourne Storm the defeated opponents on this occasion.[43][44][45] Leeds then retained the Super League championship by winning the Grand final.[46][47] This marked the first time the club had won consecutive titles.[48] A third consecutive league title followed in 2009, when Leeds won the 2009 Super League Grand Final, and thus became the first club ever to win the trophy three times in a row.[49]

After failing to win a trophy in 2010, Leeds started the 2011 season in mixed form, and by July appeared to be in danger of missing out on the play-offs completely. They ultimately did finish in a play-off spot and went on to win the 2011 Super League Grand Final.[50] They reached the Challenge Cup final in 2012, as they had the previous year, but again finished runners up. The Rhinos did however, successfully defend their Super League title by winning the 2012 Super League Grand Final.[51] Success in the Grand Final earned them another World Club Challenge match against Melbourne Storm, in which they were defeated.[52] Leeds would ultimately fail to win any silverware in 2013,[53] however they did end their long run without a Challenge Cup final win by beating Castleford Tigers at Wembley in the 2014 final.[54]

The Treble

Leeds had a highly successful season in 2015, winning the Challenge Cup, League Leaders Shield and the Grand Final, completing the modern day rugby league treble[40] and becoming only the third team in the Super League era to achieve this after Bradford in 2003 and St Helens in 2006.

Leeds' victory in the 2015 Grand Final was the final competitive game of Rugby League for three long serving players of the game, as Jamie Peacock & Kylie Leuluai retired at the end of the season and Kevin Sinfield joined Leeds' sister club in Rugby Union, Yorkshire Carnegie.[55]

Colours and badge

Leeds play in traditional Leeds colours blue and amber (home). Their home kits are famously blue with an amber band around the chest and on the arms. Between 2011 and 2013 Leeds wore pink away kits with proceeds of shirt sales going to breast cancer charities.


Original Leeds RLFC badge

Between the clubs foundation in 1865 and the formation of Super League in 1996 Leeds used the city's crest on their kits as they were just known as Leeds RLFC or Leeds Loiners. In 1996, the formation of Super League saw Leeds change their name to Leeds Rhinos. The new badge is mainly blue and has a rhino with the word rhino above it in a semi circle and Leeds at the top of the badge.


Main article: Headingley Stadium

Leeds have only ever played at Headingley since their formation in 1865. They ground share with rugby union side Yorkshire Carnegie who were formed in 1991. Both clubs and the ground itself are owned by Leeds Rugby. The rugby ground is also on the same site as the cricket ground operated by Yorkshire CCC. The North Stand of the rugby ground backs onto the cricket ground. The Carnegie Stand was built in 2006 to incorporate executive boxes into Headingley and also expanded the capacity to 21,000 adding extra seating on the top tier and terrecing on the bottom.

Both Yorkshire CCC and Leeds Rugby are looking at redeveloping the North Stand as part of the redevelopment of the cricket ground to rebuild it and to add the seating on both sides to expand the capacity of both grounds and possibly add more executive boxes to the stadium. The club has also looked into the possibility of redeveloping the South Stand and the Western Terrece, however any redevelopment or expansion of the Western Terrece would require the demolition of housing and rerouting of a public right of way.

Headingley panorama

Kit sponsors and manufacturers

Leeds have had four shirt sponsors since 1981, the current sponsors, Leeds Building Society are currently the longest sponsorship deal the club have had and is the longest in Super League. Since 2008 the clubs kits have been bade by Australian company ISC who took over from Patrick.

YearsKit ManufacturerMain Shirt Sponsor
1968-1981 Umbro no sponsor
1981-1990 Youngers
1990-1992 Carling
1993-2003 Asics Tetley's
2004-2006 Patrick
2007 Leeds Building Society
2008- ISC


Ronnie the Rhino, the mascot of Leeds
Main article: Ronnie the Rhino

Ronnie the Rhino is the Leeds mascot.[56] He attempts to get the crowd going pre-match, and at half-time he normally gets children involved by playing some sort of game.

Ronnie the Rhino visits schools as part of the Leeds RLFC Community project, with the intention of promoting sports and healthy living.[57]


Leeds' main local rivals are Bradford Bulls who they played in two Grand Finals and beat in 2004 to win their first Super League title. Leeds also have a cross-city rivalry with Hunslet Hawks, notably the annual Harry Jepson OBE Memorial Cup, however this is seen as a one way rivalry as they play in different leagues so competitive fixtures are rare.

Leeds have West Yorkshire derbies with Wakefield Trinity who they play every Boxing Day in the Festive Challenge. They have bigger derbys with Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers who also challenge for the play-offs.

Since the formation of Super League there has been a big rivalry with St Helens who lost five consecutive Grand Finals between 2007 and 2011, four of which were against Leeds. The two sides have been the most successful during Super League. There is also other cross-Pennine rivalrys against Wigan Warriors who they have played in big games and beat them in a final for the first time in 2015 and a rivalry against Warrington Wolves who they have played in Challenge Cup and Grand Finals.


Current squad

Leeds Rhinos 2017 Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches

  • (c) Captain
  • (vc) Vice captain

Updated: 7 November 2016
Source(s): 2017 Squad Numbers



Nat Name Moved From Contract Length Date Announced
Papua New Guinea James Segeyaro Penrith Panthers 2 ½ Years September 2016
England Jack Ormondroyd Featherstone Rovers 2 Years October 2016
England Cory Aston Sheffield Eagles 2 Years October 2016


Nat Name Moved To Contract Length Date Announced
Australia Mitch Achurch Free agent N/A October 2016
England Zak Hardaker Castleford Tigers 1 Year Loan November 2016

Out on loan

Nat Name Club Length
England Zak Hardaker Castleford Tigers 1 Year


Harry Sunderland Trophy winners

The Harry Sunderland Trophy is awarded to the Man-of-the-Match in the Super League Grand Final by the Rugby League Writers' Association.

Season Recipient
1968-69 Bev Risman
1971-72 Terry Clawson
1974-75 Mel Mason
1978-79 Kevin Dick
2004 Matt Diskin
2007 Rob Burrow
2008 Lee Smith
2009 Kevin Sinfield
2011 Rob Burrow
2012 Kevin Sinfield
2015 Danny McGuire

Lance Todd Trophy winners

The Lance Todd Trophy is awarded to the Man-of-the-Match in the Challenge Cup Final. Introduced in 1946, the trophy was named in memory of Lance Todd, the New Zealand-born player and administrator, who was killed in a road accident during the Second World War.

Year Recipient Position
1957 Jeff Stevenson Scrum-half
1977 Steve Pitchford Prop
1999 Leroy Rivett Wing
2003 Gary Connolly Fullback
2005 Kevin Sinfield Loose forward
2014 Ryan Hall Wing
2015 Tom Briscoe Wing

† = Won Lance Todd Trophy Whilst On Losing Side

Steve Prescott Man of Steel winners

The Steve Prescott Man of Steel Award is an annual honour, awarded by the Super League to the most outstanding player in the British game for that year.

1977England David WardHooker
1991England Garry SchofieldStand-off
1998Wales Iestyn Harris Stand-off
2015England Zak Hardaker Full-Back

Golden Boot winners

The Golden Boot Award is a rugby league award handed out annually for achievements in rugby league by Rugby League World magazine. The Golden Boot is given, usually in December after the conclusion of all the year's matches, to the player adjudged to be the best in the world, as determined by a ballot of international media representatives.[58]

It was decided by the judges that Garry Schofield should be the winner in 1990, but unfortunately the sponsors of the Golden Boot backed out and the award was shelved. After a nine-year hiatus, League Publications Ltd, having bought Rugby League World, brought back the award in 1999. In 2011 they decided to give Schofield his Golden Boot and he is now included in the roll call of winners of the prestigious award.

The oldest winner of the award is Kevin Sinfield, who won in 2012 at the age of 32.

1990England Garry Schofield
2012England Kevin Sinfield


Treble winning team

This list contains the players who played in the Challenge Cup, Grand Final and played over 10 games during the season.

England1Zak Hardaker
England2Tom Briscoe
England3Kallum Watkins
Australia4Joel Moon
England5Ryan Hall
England6Danny McGuire
England7Rob Burrow
New Zealand8Kylie Leuluai
Papua New Guinea9Paul Aiton
England10Jamie Peacock
England11Jamie Jones-Buchanan
England12Carl Ablett
England13Kevin Sinfield (C)
England14Stevie Ward
Australia15Brett Delaney
Australia16Mitch Achurch
Australia17Adam Cuthbertson
England18Liam Sutcliffe
England19Brad Singleton
Germany20Jimmy Keinhorst
England21Josh Walters
England27Ash Handley
England29Jordan Lilley
Australia30Mitch Garbutt

Players with honours



First Team coaching staff

Position Staff
Head CoachEngland Brian McDermott
Assistant CoachEngland Chris Plume
Assistant CoachEngland Barry Eaton
Head of Athletic PerformanceEngland Jason Davidson
Head of AnalysisEngland James Bletsoe
First Team Performance AnalystEngland Ryan Spindley
Head PhysioEngland Andy Barker
Assistant PhysioEngland Ben Harper
Club MasseurEngland Steve Clegg
Kit ManEngland Glynn Bell

Club officials

Leeds CF&A Co Ltd Owner England Paul Caddick
President England Harry Jepson MBE
Chairman England Paul Caddick
Chief Executive England Gary Hetherington
Commercial Director England Rob Oates
Finance Director England Peter Hirst
Legal Director England Chris Ross
Non-Executive Director England Jeffery Walton



Winners (10): 1960-61, 1968–69, 1971–72, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015
Runners-up (11): 1914-15, 1928-29, 1929-30, 1930-31, 1937-38, 1969-70, 1972-73, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1998, 2005

Winners (3): 2004, 2009, 2015
Runners-up (5): 1998, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008

Winners (2): 1974-75, 1978–79
Runners-up (1): 1994-95

Domestic Cups

Winners (13): 1909-10, 1922–23, 1931–32, 1935–36, 1940–41, 1941–42, 1956–57, 1967–68, 1976–77, 1977–78, 1999, 2014, 2015
Runners-up (12): 1942-43, 1942-43, 1946-47, 1970-71, 1971-72, 1993-94, 1994-95, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012

Winners (1): 1970-71

Winners (2): 1972-73, 1983–84
Runners-up (3): 1982-83, 1987-88, 1991-92

International Cup

Winners (3): 2005, 2008, 2012
Runners-up (4): 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016


League history

Notable supporters




See also


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