HUNSLET Rugby League club had very special guests at Good Friday’s Betfred League 1 top-of-the-table fixture with Keighley Cougars.

The South Leeds Stadium was graced by the presence of Richard Lucius Banks, his wife Annie and sons Adam and Danny, all of whom could be forgiven for spending plenty of time glancing to their left, where the site of the famous old Parkside ground is marked by a line of poplar trees that are all that remains of a famous stadium that was sold in 1973.

The Banks could be forgiven because Parkside was the arena where Richard Lucius’ grandfather Lucius Banks made history by being the first man of colour – and the first American – to play professional Rugby League (then Northern Union).

Lucius Banks was spotted playing American Football by a Hunslet committeeman who was in New York on business. So impressed was he that the Parksiders, who only four years earlier had become the first side to pull off the All Four Cups `clean sweep’, signed the quarterback.

While Hunslet apparently made no mention of the colour of his skin in the club programme, one local newspaper was not so reticent, publishing a negative headline that could lead to a criminal prosecution in the present day.

Banks, who was selected in the threequarters – often alongside the legendary Billy Batten – spent a couple of years with his English club before returning to the United States, having scored five tries in thirteen appearances (a remarkable strike-rate for that era).

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Al Garthwaite, presented the Banks family with Lucius Banks’ heritage certificate (no. 405) while Bartletts Insurance Brokers – which was founded by former Hunslet director Fred Bartlett – sponsored the event.

A clearly moved Richard Lucius Banks, who is a civil litigation lawyer (his father, also Richard Lucius Banks, was a civil rights lawyer before becoming a judge) said: “We had limited knowledge of my grandfather’s time. We were aware that he had played at Hunslet of course but we had no knowledge of the important role he has in the game’s history.

“We learned a great deal about his time in Rugby League from the historian Tony Collins, who was so encouraging and supportive and who produced a podcast celebrating my grandfather’s history. When we asked if we could meet Tony on a trip to the United Kingdom – Adam is in Edinburgh, on a horticultural programme – we only had a coffee in mind. But he helped facilitate a wonderful evening at Hunslet Rugby League club, and we are very grateful.”

The Banks family were given a guided tour of the ground, and of the Hunslet area, by club stalwart Pat Benatmane to add to a momentous day.

More information on Lucius Banks’ remarkable story can be found by visiting Tony Collins’ podcast at

The Banks family present the ‘Play of the Match’ award to fullback Jimmy Watson
The Banks family pictured before the game