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Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 17:37 UK
John Holmes: Leeds Rugby League legend
John Holmes
John Holmes in his pomp - Leeds' finest ever rugby player?

Sports fans are always keen to vent forth their opinions on who was the best ever.

Rugby League fans are no different, and a name that always crops up with Leeds supporters is that of John Holmes.

Holmes remained with his hometown club, throughout his long playing career, playing in a number of positions.

Sadly, John Holmes lost his battle with cancer in September 2009, but his memory will live on as part of a one-off replica shirt.

Leeds Rhinos will wear the one-off kit of navy and pink against Huddersfield Giants on Friday 16 July 2010, as part of a cancer awareness campaign.

The game comes at the end of National Cancer Awareness week and the campaign will raise awareness of cancer and share simple steps everyone can take to reduce their risk of ill health.

The shirt features a tribute to John Holmes, because of his battle with cancer and a percentage of money raised from sales of a limited edition replica of the shirt will go towards good causes nominated by the Holmes family.

Leeds Rhinos special shirt
The Rhinos pay tribute to a true legend of the game.

Born on 21 March 1952, John Holmes was brought up and educated in the Burley area, attending Burley C of E Primary School, where he won his first trophy as a rugby league player, moving on to Kirkstall Road School for his secondary education.

Signed by Leeds RLFC, John made his debut in 1968, aged 16. The match was a Lazenby Cup fixture against city rivals Hunslet, and Holmes made an auspicious start to his career, kicking 10 goals from 13 attempts and scoring a try.

His appearances in his first two seasons were limited as he was seen as understudy to regular full back, Bev Risman. However, once Risman retired, Holmes made the position his own not just with the quality of his place-kicking, but his all-round game.

Over the next few years, Holmes became an integral part of the team and, for many fans, was the main reason behind Leeds' Challenge Cup triumph in 1978, managing a drop goal whilst subject to yet another high tackle - Holmes' skill had marked him out as a danger man for opposition hard men.

By this time, he'd switched from full back to stand off, with no lessening of his contribution to the team. He also occasionally played centre and memorably as a loose forward later in his career.

It was during this period that his modest, easy-going nature seemed to desert him, as he was sent off twice - commentators maintain he was just dishing out a bit of justice to a few bruisers who'd doled out punishment earlier in his career.

Holmes retired in 1989, having made 625 appearances for Leeds as well as appearing for England and gaining 20 caps for Great Britain, including being part of the successful 1972 World Cup squad.

Holmes' brother Phil and nephew Phil Jr have authored a book about John, aptly titled Reluctant Hero: The John Holmes Story.

Rugby league mourns legend Holmes
27 Sep 09 |  Leeds

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