Leeds Rhinos to honour club legend with South Stand statue

LEEDS RHINOS hope to raise £100,000 to see a bronze sculpture of legendary player John Holmes come to fruition but his brother Phil insisted: 'He'd wonder what all the fuss was about!'

John Holmes' brother, Phil Holmes, shows off the maquette of John, which is the basis for a full size statue at the new South Stand. Pictured, left to right, Phil Caplan, sculptor Steve Winterburn, Phil Holmes and Gary Hetherington.

The idea of incorporating the statue of Holmes, who made a club record 625 appearances, is all part of a bigger scheme of capturing more than a century of the club’s heritage within the newly-constructed Emerald Headingley Stadium.

The gifted stand-off, who would walk to training from his nearby Kirkstall home, debuted for his hometown Leeds in 1968 and, remarkably, did not retire until 1989.

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He played in 19 major finals for the club, winning all but five, and was hailed for his deft skill and creativity.

John Holmes

He was also part of the last England side to win the World Cup in 1972, but died from cancer at the age of 57 in 2009.

Sculptor Steve Winterburn will again turn his focus to rugby league having successfully created the Wembley Stadium Rugby League Heroes statue.

John’s brother Phil Holmes has been working with him on the project, with a first impression shown yesterday at Headingley which is nearing completion after its £45m rebuild.

He said: “All the family is blown away by it. When I think we just lived down the road and knocked about with a piece of rolled-up newspaper to play rugby. To end up here now and to see John going up in this situation is amazing.

The maquette of John Holmes

“You think of all the great players who have come through this club. At times it does get emotional. We’re very, very proud. But he didn’t like fuss.

“He’d have wondered what it was all for. And you certainly wouldn’t have got him talking at something like this!”

The John Holmes Statue will be placed at the front of the South Stand and the club has opened an online fundraising option for fans to help reach the £100,000 target needed to make it a reality. Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington – who played alongside Holmes – commented: “We are really pleased with the Tetley’s South Stand development and new modern facilities it will provide our fans.

“We’re equally committed to showcasing the unique rugby history and heritage of the stadium and its significance not only to Leeds fans but rugby league followers throughout the world. We’re delighted to launch a ‘Headingley Is Home’ project and develop the South Stand for our rugby heritage.

“This will, eventually, be the starting point for a full stadium tour to include rugby and cricket and we want this completed by 2020 to mark the stadium’s 130th anniversary.”

Rhinos Foundation Heritage Committee chairman Phil Caplan added: “We are incredibly fortunate to witness the current transformation of Emerald Headingley.

If the ground has been missing one aspect, it is a statue; somewhere to congregate at, a focal point for commemoration and contemplation, a place of lasting tribute.

“Nor was the debate long or arduous for the heritage group to recommend who it should be of; the ultimate local although reluctant hero, the most durable and, for those who saw him at his pomp, arguably the best-ever to don the colours he so cherished; John Holmes.”

lFans can find out more information at www.ourblueandamber.co.uk or calling 03333 448 438.