FORMER Yorkshire rugby union player and notable league cricketer John Harker has died aged 74.

A front-row forward for Otley and Yorkshire in the 1960s and 1970s, John was also a fine cricketer for Otley and Ilkley and, in the Bradford League, for Yeadon.

Cricket secretary Rachel O'Connor said: "He was the best captain that Yeadon ever had.

"He was skipper when Geoff Cope arrived and the club was resurgent after being in the doldrums, and he got the best out of his players, making them better than they were, but it wasn't just the things that we did on the field.

"John was also involved with fund raising and, for example, Geoff and himself used to go around Yeadon on a Sunday collecting waste paper

"John was well respected, but he had two sides to his character.

"He was very amiable and always used to thank the tea ladies and back-room staff whether we were playing home and away, but he also had this gruff exterior that some people never got past."

John had also been a director of Greenholme Mills Carpet Centre, sponsorship chairman at Otley RUFC – he watched the first Test there between the All Blacks and the Lions – and was a former chairman of Glusburn & Cross Hills Parish Council.

Former Yorkshire and England off-spinner Cope said of Harker and Yeadon: "He was an enthusiastic about his rugby as he was about his cricket, and he was very, very strong.

"If you look at his cv, he was here for three years and there for three years and then moved on, but that club was always better for him having been there.

"He was very similar in many ways to his dad Jack.

"I was going to play in the Lancashire League, and my pal Lawrie McMenemy (former Southampton FC manager) said: 'You will be fielding in the slips and a ball will hit you in the chest and you will find that you will have been thinking about how the Yorkshire lads are going on. Why don't you play in the Bradford League'?
"I arrived at Yeadon the year after Barrie Leadbeater played there and my first meeting regarding Yeadon was when we sought re-election at the league's annual meeting.

"We used to have to go down the High Street and ask the butcher or the baker to find us a player because we hadn't got enough, but in our first year we won the Division Two title and then finished third in Division One, and then John left!

"John and I also played for Wharfedale Ramblers, a Sunday club who played fixtures until it became difficult due to opposition doing well in cup ties and not being able to get teams out and cancelling.

"There were definitely two sides to John. He played the game hard but was always the first one to buy you a drink at the bar.

"He was big in size and big in stature and will definitely be missed."

John's funeral is on Monday at St Gregory’s Church, Bedale (10am), followed by a gathering at Bedale Golf Club.