Several of the men who are likely to be in the Hunslet side on Sunday when the Parksiders host Leeds in the revived Harry Jepson OBE Memorial Trophy game have experience of playing in the match in Rhinos’ colours.
Winger Kiedan Hartley, second row Josh Jordan-Roberts and scrum-half Jack Mallinson, all former Leeds players, retain fond memories of the important pre-season fixture – and all are relishing the prospect of wearing Hunslet’s famous myrtle, flame and white when the old rivals go head-to-head at 3.00pm.
Hartley, in fact, has already turned out for both sides in a match that harks back to before the First World War. He says: “It was around five years ago that I played for Leeds. I think the Rhinos won that game – my memory of it is a little hazy, with it being a pre-season fixture the focus was as much on the performance as on the result – but two years ago I was in the Hunslet side that enjoyed a big win.
“The aim for both clubs tends to be the same – to give all players a run-out and monitor their progress.
“It can sometimes happen in matches like these that someone who has looked no more than ok in training can play very well and make a big impression, so the games are very important.”
While Leeds prevailed 21-14 five years ago, the Parksiders have since held sway, winning 50-18 in 2018, 34-28 in 2019 and 48-6 in 2020, when Hartley had joined Hunslet; the fixture was shelved last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hartley said: “I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game. It’s always exciting playing Rugby League, whether it’s a league game, a cup tie or a friendly. And it’s definitely exciting playing Leeds, regardless of whether they fetch a very young team or one with more experienced players included. It’s a derby and I know that supporters of both clubs, as well as both sets of players, are looking forward to it.”
Jordan-Roberts said: “I’ve played in two Harry Jepson OBE fixtures, both for Leeds, winning one and losing one.
“For Leeds, the matches were very much about giving players game-time, and that’s also the case at Hunslet, but I’ve come to realise more, since signing at the South Leeds Stadium, how important and passionate the old cross-city rivalry between the clubs is.
“I’m very aware that it means a lot to the fans, and that it also means a great deal to the players. For Hunslet, it’s a chance to take another positive step forward after our good Betfred Challenge Cup win over Keighley, and to build towards our third round tie against Siddal the following week. It’s all about progressing, in terms of performance and results, and I’m also looking forward to meeting up again with some of the Leeds coaching staff, who really looked after us when I was there.”
“I played in the last Harry Jepson OBE match to take place, in 2020,” said Mallinson. “That was one of my first Academy games for Leeds and I remember going into the match knowing that the teams play each other every year, with a cup at stake.
“We were obviously a young Leeds team, the Academy side really, and it was a big learning experience for many of us, facing grown men.
“In the end Hunslet were too good for us, winning 48-6 on the back of their much bigger and stronger pack. This time I’m in the home camp and I’m looking forward to playing for the Parksiders’ and against some of my old mates. On a broader note, we’ll need to build on the good performance against Keighley – we played well, but there’s plenty to work on.”