A RUGBY club has paid a graveside tribute to one of its heroes.

Former players from Hunslet RLFC donned green blazers to attend the funeral of Alf ‘Ginger’ Burnell at St Wilfrid’s Church, Pool-in-Wharfedale, on September 12.

Mr Burnell, who was 95, was one of the club’s legendary players and is included in its Hall of Fame.

He emerged as one of rugby league’s most talented scrum-half/half-backs in the years following World War Two and went on to play 351 times for Hunslet, also winning caps for Yorkshire, England and Great Britain.

Members from the club sang the Hunslet song by Mr Burnell’s grave to bid him farewell.

Earlier, a eulogy given in the church had highlighted some of the key points from his long and action-packed life.

Born in Hunslet on June 14, 1924 he was one of ten children living in a ‘one up, one down’ and had a tough childhood, losing his mother when he was just eight.

His love of rugby began early and he played for his school and then for Hunslet supporters at Parkside.

Leaving school at 14 to become a carpenter, he signed professionally for Hunslet RLFC when he was 16.

Two years later, aged 18, he joined the Royal Navy and ended up serving on HMS Spiteful in the submarine service.

HMS Spiteful patrolled the Atlantic and the Mediterranean before, in 1943, being seconded to the US Navy to patrol the Pacific. It ended up being awarded 23 citations for bravery by the American navy.

It was upon returning to Hunslet in 1946 that Mr Burnell first set eyes on the woman who would be married to for more than 70 years, meeting Mary at a local WMCA tea dance.

They were married in the Hunslet Parish Church of St Mary’s in the same year, by which time he had become a star player for Hunslet - then based at Parkside - where his red hair made him easily recognisable and earned him his nickname.

His fame ensured hundreds of well-wishers turned out to see the wedding.

He and Mary went on to have a family - while renowned as a tough player, off the field Burnell was known as a caring and loving family man -and a long and happy marriage.

After his retirement from the sport the Burnells went on to run three pubs in Leeds: the Red House, the Drysalters and the Spotted Cow.

Mr Burnell also took up pigeon racing, golf and painting.

In later years they made Old Pool Bank their home and the couple celebrated their 70th - Platinum - anniversary with a party at the Village Hall there in 2018.

The then Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jane Dowson, joined the couple and their family and friends for the occasion.