1. Luke Gale once scored a drop goal to beat Hull FC 1-0.
A bit more of a football score for the first one here. While playing for the Leeds Rhinos’ U21 side, in 2006, Gale stepped up in the 75th minute to stop the first ever final in Rugby League ending 0-0. The one-pointer clinched the U21 Championship title, over Hull FC, in a nail-biting finish. Hull FC had tried to break the deadline with a missed drop goal from Tommy Lee, after being charged down by Nick Scruton. Kyle Briggs then tried to sale one over for the Rhinos, before Gales stepped up with five minutes on the clock. Only one final in Rugby League history has ever finished 0-0, the 1974 BBC Floodlight Trophy final between Salford and Warrrington, while Hull FC and Halifax’s 1988 Challenge Cup semi-final finished the same score. Further 0-0’s have been recorded in Great Britain and Australia’s draw in 1930, the only scoreless Test match, Swinton and Widnes’ scoreless encounter in the Challenge Cup 3rd round and Workington and Whitehaven’s friendly on Boxing Day in 1993. But not on this occasion, thanks to Gale.
2. Kevin Sinfield almost moved to the NRL.
The club remained nameless but, in September 2016, Leeds Rhinos stalwart and current Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield revealed he was nearly tempted out of retirement to feature in the NRL. He travelled to Australia in May that year, to watch the State of Origin, but decided against playing in the competition. He revealed in an interview with the BBC that he felt he “had his time” in the sport, while also keeping tight-lipped on who it was. The move came after a spell with the Rhinos’ sister rugby union side Yorkshire Carnegie, as a 35-year-old Sinfield felt his body was not up to the task of testing himself. But the 2015 Sports Personality of the Year nominee retired with an aura of respect from both hemispheres, as an astute and consummate professional, even without trying to crack the NRL. Given he’s English, played in Super League and got an offer from the NRL… our money’s on Canberra Raiders as the club in question.
3. Peter Sterling had actually agreed to sign for the club.
From one enigmatic half-back who almost made a move over the hemispheres to another. Following two successful stints at Hull FC, in which the Australian played a starring role in the 1985 Challenge Cup final named the Sterling/Kenny final, Parramatta Eels legend Sterling signed on the dotted line for Mal Reilly’s Leeds. The move never materialised, however, as he was injured in the final Winfield Cup game for the Eels against Manly. The sides in the rest of the competition in the UK were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief, as the proposition of a young Garry Schofield and Sterling partnering in the halves for Leeds was nullified by the Australian’s injury. Sterling had been rumoured to have caught the eye of a Leeds girl, during his time at Leeds, but he had to settle for the blue and amber of Parramatta, retiring in 1992 after a stellar career.
4. One of their former players later played for the United Arab Emirates.
Leeds-born forward Wayne McDonald earned a reputation as a larger-than-life character during his playing career, which is ironic because he stood at a towering 6 foot 7. The now 44-year-old earned his stripes at Wakefield, before a short spell with Hull, and was rewarded with a move to Leeds Rhinos in 2002. He stayed for three years, leaving for a brief four-game spell with Wigan, and retired with Huddersfield Giants in 2006. Three years later, after moving to Dubai, he was back on the field and feature for the United Arab Emirates. He made two appearances for the national side and ran the Dubai Rugby Academy, where coached in schools. He was also the Youth Development Director of the Emirates National Rugby League, before a 2015 arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Director of Development Sol Mokdad rocked the nation’s plans to become a Rugby League powerhouse, as he had not received the requisite paperwork for the Federation to become a legal entity.
5. They once lost to the Navy rugby union team.
Leeds committed what could be perceived as a cardinal sin in 1917 and 1918, after the Northern Union breakaway of 1895, played rugby union. But the circumstances make this cross-code venture a humbler event. Leeds had lost fifteen of their fifty squad members in the First World War, with a number of guest players featuring in the Emergency League competition. The club, featuring those guest players, reached the 1915 Championship final and lost to Huddersfield 35-2, then a record defeat. Two years later, they played a rugby union game against the Royal Navy Depot from Plymouth. The following Christmas, Leeds and the Royal Navy played two challenge games, one in either code. The Navy actually won the rugby union game 9-3, before winning the league fixture 24-3 three days later. Leeds were admittedly depleted by the tragic losses during the War, with the fixtures serving more as a commemorative exhibition.