The rugby league players’ association League13 has announced the creation of its ‘Hall of Honour’, and confirmed that identity of the first four players to feature.
Three of the four inaugural inductees of the League 13 Hall of Honour are former rugby league professionals and World War One Victoria Cross winners Jack Harrison, Thomas Steele and Thomas Bryan.
The fourth player being inducted is Steve Prescott MBE.
One of League 13’s primary values as enshrined in its Constitution is: “We vow to honour our predecessors for their courage and sacrifice.”
Jack Harrison scored 52 tries for Hull FC in the 1913-14 season, a figure which is still a club record. He scored 106 tries in 116 games for the club, including a barce in FC’s Challenge Cup final win over Wakefield.
Harrison was commissioned as a probationary second lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1916. He won his posthumous Victoria Cross in 1917, when he led a patrol into No Man’s Land.
Despite his gallantry under heavy enemy fire, when he led repeated attempts to knock out an enemy machine gun nest, he was killed in action. His body was never found.
The London Gazette reported: “This gallant officer single-handed made a dash at the machine-gun, hoping to knock out the gun and so save the lives of many of his company. His self-sacrifice and absolute disregard of danger was an inspiring example to all.”
Thomas Bryan played for Castleford in the 1906-07 season, but was forced to withdraw from playing due to financial issues.
Later, he was a lance-corporal in the 25th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. When participating in the Battle of Arras on April 9, 1917, he was wounded.
Despite his injuries, he made his way alone along a communication trench in an attempt to take out a machine gun position which had been responsible for many Allied casualties.
He was successful in his attempt, killing two enemy machine gunners, and successfully neutralising the position.
He was later presented with his VC by King George V.
Thomas Steele played three professional games for Broughton, and also enjoyed a successful career with his local amateur club, Healy Street.
Serving with the First Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in February 1917, he was part of an Allied attempt to lift the Turkish siege of Kut-Al-Amara.
Steele helped carry a machine gun into place, and then helped to ensure that the gun stayed operational under heavy enemy fire.
Later in the battle, he led another advance and was wounded in action. In total, he was wounded 11 times during the war.
He later received his VC from King George V.
The fourth of the inductees, Steve Prescott MBE, will need no introduction to rugby league fans, whom he inspired with his moving and brave battle against cancer.
“League 13 resolved to improve the working conditions for today’s generation of Super League players and for future generations,” said Ernie Benbow, Chief Executive of League13.
“However, it is just as important to preserve the legacies of those players who have come before, especially those who have shown courage and bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
“The four players who are the inaugural inductees of the League 13 Hall of Honour exemplify those characteristics and their memories should serve as examples to all current and future rugby players of what it means to be a rugby league player.
“We are very grateful to Gary Hetherington, the Leeds club and to Phil Caplan and the Leeds Rugby Foundation Heritage Committee for their support to us in finalising this project.
“We are delighted that a top class team like Leeds acted with such dignity in facilitating the display of our legacy to these very brave inductees thus enabling as many people as possible to read about their brave deeds.
“We believe this is a fitting legacy to the four brave inductees.”