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Jon Howe's 2015 Sport in Leeds Awards

8 January 2016
Jon Howe's 2015 Sport in Leeds Awards
When the eyes of a sizeable chunk of the sporting world have been fixed on our fair City for the past few months, you don’t have to look far for the main contenders when rewarding Leeds’s sporting success in 2015. Naturally, it is hard to look much past the all-conquering Leeds Rhinos and the second successive County Championship win for Yorkshire CCC. Certainly the sweet smell of success that the two institutions from Headingley way have brought to the City has enchanted the Leeds public, and the ruthless mastery with which they each dominated the major domestic trophies in Rugby League and Cricket has rarely been seen anywhere, never mind solely in the leafy avenues of Leeds 6. So join us as we raise a glass once again – we don’t need much of an excuse – and celebrate the best that Leeds has offered in 2015.

Leeds' Best Sporting Moments of 2015

Personal performance of the year

The mind goes back to Ryan Sidebottom skittling three Middlesex wickets in the first over of the Championship game at Lords, although as that game resulted in Yorkshire’s only four-day defeat of the season, the achievement is somewhat tarnished. Jonny Bairstow (219 not out) and Tim Bresnan (169 not out) rescued a grave situation at Durham back in June, and shared an unbroken 366-run partnership to guide Yorkshire to one of several innings victories. But records are there to be broken, and it would be harsh not to recognise Tom Briscoe’s fi ve tries in the 50-0 Challenge Cup Final victory over Hull Kingston Rovers at Wembley in August, beating Leroy Rivett’s four tries – also for Leeds – in the 1999 final. In typically modest fashion, Briscoe didn’t even know he had achieved the record until a staff member told him after the game.

Occasion of the year

For this we can briefly stray away from the more obvious candidates, such as the Rhinos’ showpiece victories at Wembley and Old Trafford, and celebrate some of the huge events the City has hosted in 2015. Featherweight boxer Josh Warrington united fans of various sports via two highly-emotive Leeds love-ins at the First Direct Arena. Amid partisan scenes dripping in ‘Marching On Togetherness’, Warrington beat both Dennis Tubeiron (April) and Joel Brunker (September) on the way to winning and retaining his International title belt. Elland Road may stage an even bigger Boxing occasion in 2016, with a rumoured World title fight on the cards for Warrington. But Leeds United’s home was on the world stage also in September, when the colour and carnival of the Rugby World Cup pitched up over a weekend in Leeds for two near-capacity games featuring Scotland versus USA and Italy versus Canada. However, the award goes to the astonishing success of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire race in May, and specifically the Stage Three ride from Wakefield to Leeds, which followed on as a memorable legacy to 2014’s Tour de France Grand Depart in Leeds City Centre. An estimated crowd of 750,000 people watched along the route, which raced through Ilkley and Otley on its way to a scenic climax in Roundhay Park.

Moment of the year

It is hard to dismiss the lifting of glistening silverware in terms of standout moments, particularly when Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale was finally allowed to lift the County Championship trophy after 2014’s red tape fiasco. In fact they allowed him to do it on three separate occasions to cover up the overly-officious embarrassment. The moment when six Yorkshire players were selected for England’s tour of the West Indies was also a proud and special one for the club, players and fans alike. But for sheer sporting drama the award has to go to Ryan Hall’s last second try versus Huddersfi eld Giants in the final Super 8s game in September, which not only won the League Leaders’ Shield and provided the impetus for the Rhinos to complete the historic treble, but also provided a moment of raw, triumphant valour which reminded us why the hell we put up with the cold and wet, the expense and the occasional defeats. The brilliance and unpredictability of sport summed up in one unforgettable moment.

Personality of the year

Josh Warrington has been a ubiquitous presence around the City in 2015, and not just for the tireless task of promoting his own fights. Warrington has been at openings, Christmas light switch-ons and has become an ambassador for the Leeds United Foundation. But the end-of-the-road for arguably the two biggest names in Super League took centre stage in October as the Rugby League season reached its nerve-shredding climax. Leedsborn Jamie Peacock is hailed as Leeds Rhinos’ greatest ever signing, but his retirement coincided with that of adopted Yorkshireman Kevin Sinfield. Right to the end, Sinfield demonstrated his unrivalled leadership skills and plenty of other indefi nable qualities, with his management of the tense last minutes of the Grand Final win versus Wigan Warriors and with his game-changing 40-20 kick in the Semi-Final versus St Helens the week before. As the most celebrated captain in the club’s history, the third highest points’ scorer in Rugby League history and the first Rugby League player ever to be nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, Sinfield has to take the award.

Achievement of the year

Apart from Yorkshire’s stroll to the County Championship title, breaking a host of records along the way, a late contender for this award came in Leeds-born David Grace’s performance in the UK Snooker Championship’s in York in December. The 30-year-old has been a pro since 2008 but reached the Semi-Finals for the first time. However, the standout triumph of the year 2015 has to be the all-conquering Leeds Rhinos securing of the domestic treble, by winning the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. The undisguised, showstopping theatre of the season’s closing weeks summed up the Rhinos’ unique spirit and unconquerable attitude, and yet again provided the City with flawless heroes of quintessential class and honour

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Jon contributes sports content for Leeds Living, he is an established sports and lifestyle writer for various organisations, and is a twice published author.