The Championship trophy returned to Headingley for the second time in the club’s history at the end of the 1968/69 season following a dramatic late victory over Castleford in another play-off final at Odsal Stadium.
The success came despite the departure of legendary manager Roy Francis who had helped propel Leeds into a major force in European rugby league. Under his guidance Leeds finished top of the league and won the Challenge Cup at Wembley in the famous ‘watersplash final’ of 1968. However Francis then decided he had achieved everything he could at Leeds and quit the club to take up a coaching position in Australia with the North Sydney club.
Although he began the season in his now established managerial role, Joe took charge as coach on an interim basis in tragic circumstances midway through the campaign and guided the club to its second ever Championship trophy just months later.
The final itself against Castleford, who Leeds had coincidently beaten earlier in the season to collect the Yorkshire Cup, was won in nail-biting fashion. Trailing by three points with just five minutes to go Bev Risman’s superbly judged kick was collected by Great Britain winger John Atkinson who touched down to put Leeds level at 14 points each. Risman then converted the try to secure victory for Leeds and mark possibly the greatest era in the history of the club.
Following the victory, Leeds Rugby League Football Club Chairman Jack Myerscough gave the following tribute: ‘Joe was called upon overnight to resume control of coaching. He did not flinch but stepped into the breach and by immense skill and dedication successfully steered the team to another championship win. He thus has the unique distinction of being in command on the only two occasions on which the club has won the championship.’