FRANK Whitcombe, the forerunner of a sporting dynasty that covers Bradford and Keighley, could be immortalised in a statue.

The Bradford Northern legend is among 13 rugby codebreakers from Cardiff Bay - including some of the greatest names in the sport - who moved north to play rugby league.

Now three of the 13, all of whom came from a three-mile radius in the Welsh capital, will be on show in permanent statues to help ensure that their stories are never forgotten.

And an online public vote will help to determine which trio among the baker's dozen, from the proud, multi-cultural community that spawned them, will get the honour of appearing on the artwork.

The project, entitled 'One Team. One Race: Honouring the Cardiff Bay Rugby Codebreakers', which covers 120 years of rugby league history, will raise money to fund the statues.

Many of the 13 battled prejudice and racism before leaving Wales to find fame as rugby league superstars up north.

Whitcombe's 12 'team-mates' - the number 13 was deliberately chosen to match the players in a rugby league team - include former Northern player Gerald Cordle and ex-Odsal coach Roy Francis.

The other 10 are Dennis Brown, Billy Boston, Joe Corsi, Halifax RL legend Colin Dixon, Johnny Freeman, Gus Risman, Clive Sullivan, Jim Sullivan, William 'Wax' Williams and Dave Willicombe.

Whitcombe was born on May 28, 1913, one of 10 children who lived at 52 Wedmore Street in the suburb of Grangetown.

His dad Frederick was a blacksmith's striker in the Dry Docks by day and a bare-knuckle prize-fighter in Tiger Bay by night.

His wife Gertrude was no less resourceful, having her brother, plus Samuel and Emily Leonard, as lodgers.

In addition, Gertrude used to send one of her 10 offspring to the local brewery for a jug of yeast, and she brewed her own beer and sold it to neighbours, as well as making sloe gin in the autumn.

Whitcombe went to Ninian Park Council School and, after leaving at 14, worked for McNeill's The Coal and as a van boy with the Great Western Railway.

One-time boxer Whitcombe won his first 11 bouts while in the army, before receiving a hiding in his 12th, which prompted him to hang up his gloves.

He then went on to play union for Cardiff, London Welsh, Aldershot Services and the Army (where he reached the rank of lance corporal) and had a final Welsh trial before heading north.

He joined Manchester-based rugby league side Broughton Rangers in 1931 (Whitcombe received £100, £90 of that was to buy him out of the army, and two new suits).

He made 123 appearances for the Belle Vue club - he worked as a zookeeper at the nearby zoological gardens - scoring 11 tries and kicking one goal.

Famously, Rangers beat the Australian touring side 13-0 on Christmas Day 1937, and Whitcombe joined Northern in 1938 for a then-record fee of £850, settling in Wibsey and eventually running the Hallfield Hotel and King's Head pub in Bradford.

Whitcombe went on to play 331 games for Northern over an 11-year period, scoring 35 tries and, again, kicking one goal.

He also played in five Challenge Cup finals at Wembley, including three on the trot, and got a winner's medal in 1944, 1947 and 1949, when he was not only the oldest player to appear in a Challenge Cup final but also the heaviest.

Although Northern lost the 1948 final, Whitcombe picked up the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match - the first time it had ever been awarded to a player on the losing side.

Likewise, he won three of his five Championship Play-Off finals for Northern (1940, 1941, 1945), and was in the Northern team that lifted three Yorkshire League titles (1940, 1941, 1948).

Whitcombe also won 14 Welsh caps, beating England on five occasions, and toured Australia and New Zealand with the famous 1946 Great Britain 'Indomitables' (HMS Indomitable was the aircraft carrier on which the team sailed on from England).

He played more games than any other Great Britain player (19), which was some consolation after he was selected to tour there in 1940 only for the trip to be cancelled because of the war.

Captained by Gus Risman and including Northern legend Trevor Foster in what was the first major sporting series after the Second World War, Great Britain won it 2-0 with one game drawn, making them the only post-war British side not to lose any games in an Ashes series Down Under.

Prop forward Whitcombe scored Britain's only try in the first test in Sydney, which was drawn 8-8, earning him the nickname 'The Steam Roller' from a Melbourne newspaper.

He promptly signed for Sydney club St George, only to change his mind when he got back to Yorkshire.

Foster said of Whitcombe, who died of pneumonia when he was only 44: "He was an outstanding player on the 1946 Indomitables tour, scoring tries and he was the best forward in the scrum.

"He took on the Aussie pack on his own and was genuinely feared by the Australians. It took sometimes three and often four men to get him down in the tackle. He was strong and fearless."

As for their sporting dynasty, Frank's brother George played football for Cardiff City and was the Welsh baseball captain, while Frank's son Frank Jr, who went on to live in the Keighley area, was a rugby union prop for Bradford, Yorkshire and the North Eastern Counties.

Frank's grandson Martin, who lives in Oxenhope, was a prop for Leicester Tigers and England B; and Martin's son James, 19, who has played for England Under-20s, is a prop at Leicester Tigers in their development squad.

Martin also turned out for Keighley Rugby Union, while James played rugby league for Keighley Albion as a young boy.

A panel of experts have narrowed down the codebreaker nominations to 13 and the public are invited to vote for their top three.

Votes can be cast and donations made at:

The results will then go back to the panel for consideration and the chosen three will be revealed at a suitable moment.