|Description:||Slide of Leeds RL playing at their Headingley ground, c1970s|
|Collection:||WYMCC DOPET/DOTHE slide collection|
|Contributor:||West Yorkshire Archive Service|
|Rights:||West Yorkshire Archive Service|
The original club of St John's was formed in 1870 and the team played their matches on Cardigan Fields. This club was set up from an advertisement in the Leeds Mercury newspaper in 1864 appealing for people to turn up at Woodhouse Moor several days a week to play rugby - there were around 500 responses. In 1890 the transition was made from St Johns to the Football contingent of the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Association with the club moving to its present ground at Headingley. Just five years later in 1895, Leeds RL were one of the first 22 clubs to set up the Northern Union Rugby Football League at the George Hotel in Huddersfield.
When the Northern Rugby League was first established in 1901, Leeds were not accepted to participate until 1902. They were placed in the second division but were promoted to the first division very quickly afterwards. In nearly 110 years, Leeds RL have not moved from that top division.
Like so many other rugby league clubs at the time, the First World War period proved very trying for Leeds. Many players were lost to fighting but the team did make it to their first Championship final in 1914. However, the early 1920s saw the club rise out of the ashes to win both the Yorkshire and Challenge Cups, and making it to many of the finals.
When an unknown Australian player called Eric Harris came over to the club in 1930, there was to be an even bigger change in fortunes. By the end of the decade, the club had five more trophies to add to their cabinet.
Wartime once again took the wind out of Leeds' sails with a number of 'guest' players filling in, and then a disappointing record of wins, which followed during the 1950s. It wasn't until the 1960s and the signing of players such as Lewis Jones, Wilf Rosenberg and Derek Hallas that things began to look up for Leeds. In 1961, Leeds RL won their very first Championship final, beating Warrington 25-10. The remainder of the 1960s saw the club embark upon its first youth programme, which has continued into the exemplary academy we see today.
The 1980s proved to be a disappointing period for Leeds RL, only winning the John Player Trophy and Yorkshire Cup over 10 years, as ex-player Sid Hynes stood down as coach after a six-year spell. The emergence of Super League in 1996 was preceded by the signing of superstar players such as Ellery Hanley and an even bigger focus on the club's academy. Whilst the first season proved tricky for Leeds, their Challenge Cup victory came in 1999 against London Broncos.
Since the Millennium, Leeds Rhinos have set themselves up in the history books by winning three Super League Championships in a row 2007-2009 - this was made possible by coaches Tony Smith and Brian McClennan, and the whole playing squad (including Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny Maguire amongst many, many others). They still remain the only club to have achieved this record and the only aspect that remains is whether it is a record that can be broken further.