LEEDS is lucky to have the Rhinos.
Undoubtedly one of the most successful and best-run sports clubs in the country are on the trophy hunt at Wembley again today as they seek to retain the Challenge Cup title they won so memorably last year.
Over the past 11 years Rhinos have brought pride and prestige to the city, in the shape of six Super League titles, three World Club triumphs, two league leaders’ shields and the Challenge Cup.
Much of that has been down to two men, Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock, who will both bow out at the end of the season, Sinfield to try his hand at rugby union and Peacock to begin a behind-the-scenes career with this afternoon’s opponents Hull KR.
Sinfield may not be a Loiner by birth, hailing from Oldham, but since he made his Rhinos debut in 1997 he has become one of the city’s favourite sons. Peacock began his career with Bradford Bulls, but saw the light nine years ago and has been at the heart of the club’s success ever since.
Their achievements may not have received the recognition they deserve nationwide - despite both being awarded an MBE - but we know better. They are two of the finest and most inspirational sportsmen of recent years and it is almost impossible to imagine a Rhinos team without them. We hope the emotion of their final appearance on the hallowed turf will inspire the team to more glory today.
Of course, it is about more than just two men. If Rhinos see off Hull KR this afternoon, it will have been a team effort, from the 17 players on the pitch, the coaching and backroom staff and the tens of thousands of fans in the stands at Wembley. The Challenge Cup final is one of British sport’s greatest occasions, bringing together supporters from across the game in an annual celebration.
It has brought more pain than pleasure to Rhinos fans in recent years. Today will be Leeds’ fifth final in six seasons and their ninth since rugby league became a summer sport in 1996. That is a remarkable record, but Rhinos have won only twice so far. Hull KR will be determined to spoil the party once again. They are a good team and have pulled off some stunning results en-route to Wembley, beating Wigan and Warrington along the way.
But Leeds have been the best team all year and we are confident they will get the reward they deserve this afternoon. Go on Rhinos - bring the Cup home.