August 4, 2020

Keith Slater RIP

We have been saddened to learn of the sudden passing of former 1960s and 1970s winger, Keith Slater, last week, aged 75.

Keith Slater was Leeds-born, and played rugby union at school where he went to Roundhay and Temple Moor in the city. Here, he started his rugby union career with appearances for Yorkshire and England Schoolboys (1963) before progressing to Cambridge University, where he played Varsity in 1964. His time at university also saw him tour Argentina with a joint Cambridge and Oxford University side, plus as an England RU trial. After university he returned to Leeds where he played for Headingley RUFC, earning Yorkshire trials and an appearance for ‘Rest of England’ against county champions, Warwickshire

 In 1968, aged 23, Australian great, Arthur Clues recommended him to Trinity, and he was snapped up in October 1968 a week after further Yorkshire RU trials. The great Trinity side of the 1960s was slowly breaking up by the late 1960s but he went straight into the first team, scoring two tries on his debut in a 29-5 home win over York. Neil Fox, Don Fox, David Jeanes, Ian Brooke and David Topliss also played on his debut. Three weeks later he scored a hat trick in a 22-15 home win over Warrington, another hat trick a month later against Hull, four against Ackworth in the Challenge Cup and finishing top try scorer with 22 tries in his first season from 30 appearances.

He was a fast, elusive winger with a great sidestep and his ability to change direction, at speed, brought him many tries. His centre partner was Ian Brooke for his first two seasons, scoring another 24 tries in his second season (1969-70) with another four try haul against Halifax and two further hat tricks against Doncaster and Hunslet. His greatest try scoring feat came in February 1971 when a scored a club equaling seven tries in a 72-8 home win over Hunslet. His eight club hat tricks put him fifth on the club’s ‘hat trick’ scorers list.

He topped the club’s try scoring charts in his first three seasons at Belle Vue. His 31 in 1970-71 saw him become the first Trinity player to top thirty tries in a season since Jan Prinsloo nine seasons earlier. This feat would only be repeated once, again, with David Smith scoring 38 in 1973-74. After Ian Brooke had retired he formed a great right wing partnership with Jack Marston as his centre.

His form also caught the eye of the county selectors, making his Yorkshire debut at Whitehaven as Cumberland defeated his ‘White Rose’ team, 21-15 in September 1970. He played against Lancashire five months later, scoring twice at Castleford in a 34-9 win and he was selected twice more in the 1971-72 season, against Lancashire at Leigh and Cumberland at home club, Wakefield.

He was also becoming a target for the ‘rugby league head-hunters’ and after too many head high tackles, one at Castleford that caused some damage, he decided to retire in March 1972 and walked away from the game. His last game was at Headingley, in front of a 21,127 crowd, in a 5-11 Challenge Cup quarter final loss to Leeds.

His final club tally was 82 tries in 118 appearances and he also kicked 13 goals along the way, totally 210 points. His seven tries equalled the ‘tries-in-a-match’ record set by Fred Smith in 1959, his 31 tries in 1970-71 sees that as the eighth best in Trinity’s history. His try scoring success also sees him fifth of the club’s ‘strike rate’ list behind Jan Prinsloo, Tom Johnstone, Ken Hirst and Fred Smith as most tries in fewest games.  He also earned a heritage number of 751.

In his working day, Keith was an economist at Yorkshire Imperial Metals in Leeds before becoming a director at Burtons in Leeds and worked in retail in later life. He moved to the North East before settling in Burford in Oxfordshire where he passed away, suddenly last Thursday (30th July). He leaves his wife Karen, and children Chrissie and Tom from his first marriage and all at Trinity wish to pass on our thoughts and prayers to his family.