200 Club – No 26 – Louis Harris

Category: Heritage

200 Club – No 26 – Louis Harris

Louis Harris, born in Hull in April 1896, was a popular member of the club’s great 1920s side.

Harris, who made his name as a powerful wingman, made a try-scoring debut for Rovers at right-centre in a 46-4 home win over Bradford Northern on 4 September 1920. After a couple of games at centre, he lost his place but reappeared on the right-wing at home to Wakefield Trinity on 26 October that year. He scored two tries in a 24-8 win that day, which earned him the position on a regular basis. The season was remarkable on two counts. Rovers finished top of the league for the first time, and they won their first major trophy since becoming full members of the then Northern Union in 1899. The trophy was the Yorkshire Cup, with Rovers beating Hull FC 2-0 in the final in front of 20,000 spectators at Headingley. Harris played that day, dislocating a shoulder during the game, and after which he saved a potential try by using his weight to barge an opponent into touch.

After playing in 26 games in that remarkable debut season, he missed only three of the 44 games in 1921/22, and just another three of the 41 the following season. The latter season was 1922/23, when Rovers moved to their new home at Craven Park. Harris played in the first game on the new ground, a 3-0 loss to Wakefield Trinity, and had the honour of scoring Rovers’ first try at the stadium in a 41-3 win over Keighley five days later – going on that day to claim the first hat-trick on the ground and being judged by the Hull Daily Mail correspondent as the ‘best man on the field’. That season, Rovers won their second trophy when they beat Huddersfield 15-5 in the Championship Final, again at Headingley, again with Harris in the side.

Harris had several well-known names as his centre partner over his time at the club – in his first two seasons it was mainly the legendary Gilbert Austin; then Welshman Dai Rees took over; and in the 1924/25 season, popular local man Jimmy Cook. Cook partnered him on the right flank as Rovers reached two cup finals that year. There was disappointment in the Challenge Cup final, as Rovers lost to Oldham, and the following week, when Rovers played Swinton in the Championship Final, Harris was left out when Ralph Rhoades was brought in at left-centre, and Jack Hoult was moved to the wing in his place. Three weeks earlier, Harris had notched a personal best with four tries in a 47-6 home win over Widnes in the final league game of the season, in which Rovers secured second place in the table behind Swinton.

In 1925/26, George Bateman arrived on the scene to challenge Harris for his wing spot. Harris had missed the first five games of the season but was back in his usual position for the home derby game at the start of October. Rovers 8-2 win that day was only a prelude to a run of five defeats in six games, after which Bateman took over the right-wing spot. Harris was not dropped; instead, he was moved, rather incongruously, to scrum-half for the next game, a 21-11 win over Bradford. After that, he was moved to right-centre to partner Bateman for a spell. It was a rather unsettled season for Harris, and for Rovers, who struggled to find the previous season’s form.

Harris won back his place in 1926/27, but Bateman was back again the following season and after losing his place in early November 1927, Harris made only a dozen more appearances for the Robins – one of these being at loose-forward in a 9-8 win at St Helens Recs on 2 January 1928. After this, he did not reappear that season, and but played eight more games on the wing in 1928/29, making his last appearance for the club in a 14-12 defeat at Dewsbury on 1 December 1928. In all, Louis Harris played 254 games for Rovers, scoring 77 tries and kicking one goal – a total of 233 points. He was not an exceptionally fast or elusive winger, relying more on his power, and he was a solid defender. Broad-shouldered, around 5’10’’ tall, and weighing around 15 stone, he was a robust and reliable performer in times when the game was very physical in nature.

After finishing his playing career, Harris remained connected with Rovers for many years, initially doing some coaching, and in later years as a director in the 1960s and 1970s, until shortly before his death. He was born one of ten children to a Jewish family and was very proud of his heritage. Rugby league was one of the first sports in the country to have a strong Jewish connection, and Louis Harris was very much part of that.

Harris served his country with distinction in the First World War as a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery, and after the war was heavily involved in the Hull Great War Trust, which served to help injured servicemen and their families. He subsequently served as a special constable in Hull City Police. In 1968, he was appointed MBE for his longstanding work with the Great War Trust. Harris owned two fruit shops on Holderness Road, and lived for many years before his death on Bricknell Avenue, with his wife Janey, whom he married in 1922. He was the uncle of a former Rovers chairman, the late Max Gold, and his brother Les, who continues to serve on Rovers Heritage Committee. Louis Harris died in March 1975.

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