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Leeds Rhinos legend Lewis Jones passes away at 92

Leeds Rhinos Headingley Stadium

It is with deep sadness that Leeds Rhinos have learned of the passing today of legendary player Lewis Jones, aged 92, peacefully in his sleep after a short illness. 

Lewis Jones will forever be known as the Golden Boy at Headingley, having moved North from his home in Gorseinon, near Swansea, in 1952 to switch codes and lead Leeds to their first ever Championship in 1961, having lifted the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1957.

Prior to switching codes, he had already made his debut for Wales whilst still a teenager at Twickenham against the old enemy before earning a call up to the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1950.

Born on 11th April 1931, he played for his home town of Gorseinon and Neath before National Service took him to Devonport as a Stores Assistant on H.M.S. Fisgard. He was spotted playing Services’ rugby and elevated to national selection. After national service, he played for Llanelli and was the constant source of interest for Rugby League clubs looking for Union talent. He initially rebutted those approaches but was eventually persuaded to move to Headingley for a then record fee of £6,000 and wrote his name in the game’s history books.

Points by the thousand! Records galore! Yet so much more besides, for Lewis was a King of Rugger with the Midas touch, turning half-chances into golden opportunities with sparks of his creative artistry, and gilding countless games with moments of sheer wizardry.

His finest hour in blue and amber, came as stand-off at Odsal on 20th May 1961. A fortnight earlier, he had master-minded the defeat of St Helens in a gripping Championship Semi-Final at Headingley and at Odsal his tally of a try and five goals ensured he would become the first Leeds captain ever to collect the Championship trophy.

He played his final game for Leeds on Easter Monday 1964, before moving to Wentworthville, in the Sydney area, as player-coach. Jones returned to Leeds in 1972 to take up an appointment as a Maths Specialist at Silver Royd High School and was a coach to Leeds ‘A’ for a season, prior to taking over 1st Team duties briefly at Dewsbury during 1977-78.

In total, he made 385 appearances for Leeds scoring 144 tries, kicking 1,244 goals producing 2,920 points, both of latter were records at the time of his retirement. He was capped 15 times by Great Britain Rugby League including touring in 1954 and playing in the 1957 World Cup in Australia.  In Rugby Union, he was awarded ten caps for Wales between 1950 and 1952 and played three Tests on the 1950 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand.

He was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2013 before being one of the first players inducted into the Leeds Rugby Hall of Fame in 2017. Lewis an inductee into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame Roll of Honour.

Tribute made to Leeds Rhinos legend

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington paid his own personal tribute, he commented, “Headingley will not be the same without Lewis. He never missed a Rhinos home game and he remained as passionate as every about his team. He was one of Rugby’s first superstars in the 1950s and achieved legendary status with Leeds and within Rugby League. He will be sadly missed and we will celebrate his life with our fans at our next home game.”

Lewis’s daughter Karen Westaway added, “We want to thank all the staff at St. James’s for providing Dad with such excellent, compassionate care over the last few days. Today Leeds says goodbye to a rugby legend, while we say goodbye to a wonderful Dad – an inspiring mentor and coach whose warmth and kindness will never be forgotten by his family, or anyone who had the good luck to know him.”

On behalf of everyone at Leeds Rhinos, we would like to pass on our deepest sympathies to Lewis’ family and friends at this sad time. For this Friday’s game at Leigh Leopards, the team will wear black armbands and the club will pay their full respects at our home game against St Helens on Friday 15th March. Funeral details have not been confirmed as yet.

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