DREW Turnbull, the prolific Leeds winger who scored at a rate of almost a try per game during his career at Headingley, has died at the age of 82 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
A thrilling performer, he joined as a 17-year-old from Scottish rugby union club Hawick in 1948 and went on to become one of the West Yorkshire club’s finest-ever widemen.
During eight seasons there, Turnbull amassed 228 tries in 230 appearances, his best campaign when he scored 42 tries in just 26 games during the 1954-55 season.
His time coincided with some barren years when it came to trophies but, nonetheless, he was revered by their faithful as club president Harry Jepson admitted last year while musing over Leeds’s potential greatest-ever XIII.
“Drew was a classic wingman from the Borders who knew his way to the line,” wrote Jepson.
“He ended with a remarkable record of a try a game average over an incredible eight seasons which is up there with the very best.
“He could score from any distance but, close in, was like a torpedo. Arriving as part of the rebuilding of the club, at his peak he was a nightmare for defences with his decisive runs at full pace.
“Sadly his prolific efforts did not bring winner’s medals at a time of transition but he could thrill a Headingley crowd as well as any and frequently out of nothing and often with the kind of diving finish that Chris Ashton currently has in vogue.”
Apparently, Huddersfield Fartown had tried to snare Turnbull the week before Leeds signed him up.
However, his mother promised him a wristlet watch if he ignored their advances. He did so but, after getting his watch, soon found himself accepting a cheque for £2,000 and moving to their West Yorkshire rivals regardless.
He won a couple of Yorkshire League Championship medals with Leeds and earned a solitary Great Britain international cap with two tries against New Zealand in 1951 but injury ruined his hopes of facing Australia the following year.
Released by Leeds in 1956, Turnbull finished his career with Halifax – typically making his first appearance in their colours against Leeds at Headingley, scoring a try on the winning side.
A minute’s silence will be held before the Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers game at Headingley tomorrow.