Is Watching Leeds Rhinos More Fun Than Watching Leeds United These Days? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Rhinos: Magical Entertainers and perennial Winners

Leeds Rhinos: Magical Entertainers and perennial Winners

Bear with me now, as we awake to another Leeds United match-day, if I write of the conflict between my feelings for the Whites and a whole other club in a whole different sport. Let me just put this painful dilemma out there.

Whilst I appreciate that by no means all the readers of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything will be Leeds Rhinos fans, nor yet even Super League followers, nevertheless there will be plenty that are. I happen to have a foot in both football and RL camps, so I feel a certain tug-of-war going on deep inside, where my loyalties live. And, even given my dual affiliation, which goes back many years now, it was still the case not so long back that I’d have considered it to be strictly no-contest between Leeds United and any other sporting interest. But now, I must confess – I’m not so sure any more.

As I said, many of you out there will not be Super League fans. Feel free to be excused, or maybe just chat amongst yourselves. Still others will love Super League, or RL anyway, as much as I do. But perhaps you’re Cas Tigers followers, or Wakefield or – God forbid – Hull FC or even Saints (spit). Again, this isn’t primarily aimed at you, though I’d love to hear your opinion if you can be bothered (and if you can set aside your petty hatred of the Rhinos…!)

But the real target audience here is made up of those, like myself, who follow Leeds in both sports. Do you feel the 13-a-side game exerting an ever greater hold over you? Do you find yourself continually on the edge of your seat when watching the Rhinos – and sometimes on the point of dropping off when Leeds United are playing? Worrying, isn’t it?

The problem – if it really is a problem – may, of course, be wider than just a Leeds thing. There may be Hull FC and Hull City fans who find themselves wondering which sport offers the most. It’s just fairly acute for us double Leeds fans at the moment, because the Rhinos are undoubtedly the team in Super League, whereas poor old United appear to be settling more and more for mediocrity. Even Herr Rösler’s promised “heavy metal football” is coming across so far more as senseless noise, than anything with a real beat. It’s very worrying – and not a little unsettling, too.

The issue I have at the moment is the contrasting way I feel when I’m watching the Rhinos, compared with United. Watching the Whites still gets me wound up; the desire and passion are both still there, but there’s this nagging subtext of frustration a lot of the time – of exasperation at misplaced passes, of annoyance with the tedium of the game as our heroes currently play it. Horrible though it is for me to say so, I’m sometimes actually bored watching Leeds United – and even that’s preferable to the fear and resentment I feel when we’re getting a good drubbing off the likes of Hull or Millwall or even Bradford.

Watching the Rhinos though, can be literally breathtaking, win or lose. There’s such an insistent, throbbing, ebb and flow tempo to the game of Rugby League, and there’s also the awesome realisation of what those lads are putting their bodies through for eighty minutes. Watching Jamie Peacock ploughing forward with three defenders dangling from his frame – or Ryan Hall using his power and strength to surge unstoppably over the line – these have been the sporting moments over the last few years or so that have really got my imagination and passion fired up. It’s difficult to recall too many moments like that watching Leeds United – and, believe me, I truly hate saying that. But really – aren’t there some of you out there who, if you’re honest, feel exactly the same?

I’m not here to wind anybody up. It’s a niggling, worrying issue for me, and I’m genuinely interested in how others feel, whether they agree, or violently disagree. My passion for Leeds United goes back forty years – I’m bound to feel a bit like an errant lover, trying to seem less obviously guilty about his younger mistress. But the truth is that Leeds Rhinos have come to mean a hell of a lot to me as well. Is this wrong? They’re two completely separate sports, after all. So am I being unfaithful to United, or even to the Beautiful Game itself?

I’d love to hear your views, and I’ll try to be gentle and restrained when moderating comments in an area where feelings may understandably run high. But I’m in a real quandary here and it’s actually a bit heart-wrenchingly painful.

Fellow sufferers – and others – it’s over to you.

21 responses to “Is Watching Leeds Rhinos More Fun Than Watching Leeds United These Days? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. the problem is rugby league is played by a handful of sportsmen in a handful of countries where as soccer is played by thousands in almost every country on earth, therefore the quality isn’t comparable. Football at the top level is being destroyed though by MONEY……………but its kind of irrelevant as the MLS will be the new force in 15 years


  2. hi Rob.
    I’m with you all the way on this one, i’m a season ticket holder at ER, and the whites are my first love, but I have also been a keen Rhino’s / Leeds RLFC follower for 50 years now, and I must admit, the last 10 has seen me leaning more toward the Rhino’s with every season.

    as you rightly say the passion and sheer winning mentality shown by super league teams puts the pro footballers to shame, and if they all showed the will to put their bodies on the line like the RL players, we would have a much more exciting sport (football).

    However , we are Leeds, and i will continue to support both.,


  3. Alan Wilson

    Hi Rob, Have you tried thinking of your “problem” in another way. Firstly they are different sports BUT they are from the same city and obviously from the same county. Therefore in my opinion you are not being unfaithful to Leeds United but just expanding your loyalty. Same city, different sports and all in the same county of (West) Yorkshire what more could a true Yorkshire man wish for? I am sure that there are many fans out there that share the same thoughts as you including me except I am slightly different in the fact that I was born and bred in South Leeds. I cannot support the Rhinos as my second loyalty lies on that side of the river with Hunslet Hawks. I have supported both since 1953 and still do to this day. So the quick answer to your question is no you are definitely NOT wrong.


  4. stuart weinstock

    I feel the same , whenever I watch United , 15 minutes in and I’m thinking , What am i doing here , the Rhinos keep me on the edge of my seat. Its probably that were watching second class football and champagne rugby.


  5. You’re not wrong. The Rhinos are winners and the Whites are… Lacking ambition is the best way to put it. Feeling disloyal is balanced by feeling betrayed – like every time I see a kid in Leeds wearing a Manure shirt. Leeds United is letting its support base down. Unless the club changes its ways and gives new, young fans something to feel pride in, soon it won’t have supporters, especially if us older fans turn back to rugby.


  6. Interesting post Rob, but spare a thought or a bit of sympathy for me and others who are TRINITY and LUFC from birth, doubly depressing for us. But at least there is a little comfort in knowing that our second team (Rhinos) is doing so well.


  7. Steve Bagnall

    Football is all speed and no guile anymore, very little excitement at any professional level.
    I have watched both teams since 1960, and lost real interest in United due to Ridsdale.
    R .L. have had more downs than ups in this time, but always give it large.
    My preference is rugby, I can’t get fired up on football anymore.


  8. Been watching The Mighty Whites for 46 years Rob and the Rhinos about 20, and i can honestly say i know exactly where you’re coming from mate, i feel exactly the same, but LUFC are still my first love and always will be, just wish the 2 teams would swap fortunes, it seems only fair


  9. Hi Rob,
    Love your blog and read all comments but very rarely add my own. Had to this time, though.
    I too remember the times when I would get excited as match day approached, now however, I get anxious and that is the key difference for me. It does not make me happy, but uncomfortable.
    Unfortunately, I have no other sport I follow so instead of feeling guilty, consider yourself lucky my friend.


  10. Simon Clarkson

    Hi Rob I understand your dilemma. I have supported Leeds since 1969 when I was taken by my cousins to a game & was hooked. For many years a season ticket holder. Despite no longer being a season ticket holder I attended 17 home games last season & at least 6 every year, since I let my season ticket lapse. I also attended at the Rhinos & enjoy every minute, however a defeat for the Rhinos doesn’t bother me as I can be quite sanguine & rational about it. When I witness Leeds loose I am always disappointed & look for any positivity however marginal, a couple of victories I start to think finally we are heading in the right direction. My passion is football & always will be, I think you are one & the same.


  11. gerry watson

    hi rob ,i have followed leeds united since the 1965 cup final,lost again,the team have broken my heart more times than i can remember but the last 10 years have been the worst.why people buy the club if they cant take it back to where it should be dumfounds me ,what is the point.i also love the rhinos and it is becoming difficult to say i would choose united over the rhinos at the moment ,dont get me wrong i still love the football team and it will be in my heart till i die but the rhinos and rugby league are so compelling at the moment it is difficult.i wish i could believe in our chairman but i have been hurt so much in the last 10 years it is many small clubs are so better organised than us it makes me wonder what is wrong.


  12. I agree Rob. The passion is still there for LUFC but its much easier watching Rhinos. I also don’t understand the hatred for Rhinos from some sections of LUFC fans.


  13. My 16 year old son has now taken over the mantle of trudging to ER every other week. I can’t justify forking out £30, to watch what is mostly dross nowadays, cos the thrill has gone. I’ve done my stint for 40 years but now get my buzz following the Rhinos neighbours Yorks CCC who have become, under Dizzy Gillespie, as professional & entertaining as their RL counterparts. Years ago these 2 clubs would look up to Leeds United because of their success, now you have to feel its the other way round


  14. As a football fan and Leeds United follower for many years I was a late convert to Super League and the Rhinos. I am now in no doubt that the Rhinos provide far better entertainment and value for money than United have for the past few years. However, having recently moved to the South of England with no Rhinos matches close by I planned to watch United at Reading, Bristol City, MK Dons, Brentford, Charlton etc. But after watching the Reading match on Sunday I shall not bother going to the other matches. There was a lack of class and excitement from both sides and I concluded that the afternoon was a waste of time and money. So, from now on I shall confine myself to watching local football and the occasional Rhinos match when I am back up North.


  15. I was a United fan for 20-odd years, and then when I moved to Hertfordshire in 2008, my Yorkshire stubbornness led me to declare my intention to stick to my proud heritage by starting to watch RL and start drinking bitter.

    The bitter drinking didn’t last more than a week, but the RL has stuck (no doubt helped by LR being champions at the time and LU being in the 3rd tier), to the point where I can’t even watch a football match any more without getting bored.


    • As an addition, one of the things that really didn’t help keep me following LUFC was the inability to buy 2 tickets to a Leeds United away match near me for less than £120 (£30 per ticket and £30 for club membership that we would each need)


  16. As my grandad used to say ,, rugby is a game played by apes with funny shaped balls….


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