31 OCTOBER 2011
Leonard Michael Anthony (Len) Killeen
On this day, nine years ago, Len Killeen, to date the only South African to won the much-coveted Lance Todd Trophy in a rugby league final, passed away. Killeen, formerly of Swifts Rugby Football Club in Uitenhage in the Eastern Province, signed with St. Helens in 1962 and went on to become a fantastic points-scorer and match-winner supreme, one of the stars of the club’s four trophy season in 1966. On three occasions, he completed the regular league season as the top scorer. After playing against Liverpool City in a pre-season match, he made his debut against Salford on 18 August. Killeen scored 25 tries in 27 matches in his first season, and was only beaten by fellow-South African Tom van Vollenhoven, who finished on 33. Killeen really came to the fore in 1965–66. With Tom van Vollenhoven’s scoring starting to decline, with only 18 tries, Killeen ended up as top try scorer and goal kicker in the game, with 32 tries and 120 goals from 44 appearances for 336 points – 22 less than the previous season.
In that season’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley against Wigan, Len firmly inked his name into the annals of rugby league history. Following sterling contributions in the run-up to the final such as scoring all the points in the Saints’ semi-final against Dewsbury – two tries and two goals –in the club 12–5 victory, the Wembley Final was to be the crowning moment of his career. On Saturday 21 May 1966, in front of a crowd of 98,536, Killeen scored a try, three penalties and two conversions – 13 of Saints’ 21 points in their 21–2 win. This sterling performance was crowned with Len winning the Lance Todd Trophy as the Man of the Match.
The said trophy was introduced in 1945–46 and named in memory of Lance Todd, the New Zealand-born player and administrator, who was killed in a road accident during the Second World War. The trophy's winner is selected by the members of the Rugby League Writers' Association present at the game. The first winner of the trophy was Wakefield Trinity Centre, Billy Stott in 1945–46. St. Helens' Sean Long in 2006 became the first player to win the Lance Todd Trophy three times, having won in 2001 and 2004. Five players have won the trophy twice: Warrington's Gerry Helme in 1949–50 and 1953–54; Wigan's Andy Gregory in 1987–88 and 1989–90; and Martin Offiah in 1991–92 and 1993–94; St. Helens' Paul Wellens in 2007 (jointly) and 2008; Hull FC's Marc Sneyd in 2016 and 2017. Sneyd and Wellens are the only players to win the award in consecutive finals.
Killeen was not only the third St. Helens player to win the award, but was also the 21st recipient of this famous award. In addition, he was only the second overseas player to win the trophy, after Ces Mountford and the first winger to do so.