Jimmy Ledgard

Gentlemanly rugby league full-back


James Ledgard, rugby league player: born Wakefield, Yorkshire 9 June 1922; married (one daughter); died Dewsbury, Yorkshire 26 January 2007.

Jimmy Ledgard was one of the great rugby league full-backs of his generation and a vital contributor to Great Britain's surprise World Cup victory in 1954. That was when a team without most of its leading players went to France for the inaugural tournament and became the first British side in any sport to be crowned as World Cup winners.

Without a host of players who had made themselves unavailable after a gruelling tour to Australia and New Zealand, Great Britain were supposed to have little chance, but, with Ledgard as full-back and reliable goal-kicker, they beat Australia and New Zealand in the qualifying rounds, as well as drawing with France.

That set up a final against the hosts in Paris, which Great Britain won 16-12, with Ledgard kicking two goals, bringing his total for the tournament to 13, plus a try against the Kiwis. It was what he regarded as the undoubted highlight of a distinguished playing career.

Ledgard was born in Wakefield and played local rugby league as well as rugby union for Sandal. He had trials for Leeds only to be told that he was too small and signed instead for Dewsbury, the first of two rugby league towns which adopted him. It was there that he emerged as a full-back of outstanding ability, not merely for his kicking, but for his safe defence and all-round ability. He was also regarded as one of the fairest and most gentlemanly of players.

He played twice for Great Britain against the touring New Zealanders in 1947 before his transfer to Leigh the following year caused a sensation within the game. The fee of £2,650 was a world record, beating the £2,000 that Wigan had paid Batley earlier that same season. No one could dispute that Leigh had value for money. In 10 years, he made 334 appearances, including two winning Lancashire Cup finals, scoring 36 tries and 1,043 goals - the latter still a club record - for 2,194 points.

He was an expert at the then standard tactic of the kicking duel, in which rival full-backs would pin each other back with long-range kicks in order to force a mistake. Few rivals got the better of Ledgard in this particular art-form.

In 1950 he toured Australia and New Zealand, playing in the defeats at Brisbane and Sydney that cost Great Britain the Ashes and a Test in New Zealand. He also played against the 1951 Kiwis, although his caps in the 1954 World Cup were the last of his 11.

After a decade in Lancashire, where he also worked as a joiner for Leigh Corporation, Ledgard re-crossed the Pennines and returned to Dewsbury in the twilight of his career. The future Great Britain coach Maurice Bamford, then a young player at the club, recalls that he was still meticulous in his preparation. One of Bamford's duties was to place newspapers near the touchline when Ledgard was practising his touch-kicking. He was so accurate that he would usually hit the improvised target and bounce the ball into touch off the paper.

After his retirement as a player, Ledgard coached briefly at Bradford Northern, but did not take to it. He remained a hero at his two clubs, as a member of the Hall of Fame at both Dewsbury and Leigh.

In the last year of his long life, the Rugby League Heritage Centre in Huddersfield discovered some film footage of his 1947 Test appearances against New Zealand and invited him and his wife, Betty, to view them. He watched fascinated and admitted that it was the first time he had ever seen himself play.

Dave Hadfield

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks