Kevin Sinfield: SPOTY honour is humbling...and I am relishing the challenges of union

Kevin Sinfield in action for Yorkshire Carnegie.
Kevin Sinfield in action for Yorkshire Carnegie.
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New columnist Kevin Sinfield charts his transition from rugby league legend into rugby union regular in the first of his weekly columns.

Being nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year has been really humbling and I am honoured to be representing rugby league on the shortlist of nominees for the main award.

Kevin Sinfield with the 2012 Grand Final trophy, one of the many trophies he won with Leeds Rhinos.

Kevin Sinfield with the 2012 Grand Final trophy, one of the many trophies he won with Leeds Rhinos.

I go to Belfast on Sunday night with no expectations but delighted to be part of the 12 nominees. I will be amongst a group of tremendous friends in the Rhinos squad.

I am looking forward to spending some time with the lads and carrying on those friendships and enjoying each others’ company.

It was a bit hectic at the end of the season as I immediately switched to life at Yorkshire Carnegie so this will be a good opportunity to enjoy a night out with the Rhinos lads and reflect on what we achieved in 2015.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me their best wishes following my nomination and I hope I can do you all proud on Sunday.

Kevin Sinfield training session with Yorkshire Carnegie.

Kevin Sinfield training session with Yorkshire Carnegie.

I knew it was going to take time to adjust to rugby union. I knew I would have some frustrations during these early months but the big concern for me was whether I could replicate the buzz that I got from playing rugby league and I have to say I really enjoyed the game on Sunday against London Scottish at Scarborough, and that buzz is still there, which means a lot to me.

That is the reason why I want to go out there every weekend but I know I still have lots to learn. I am making small steps every day in training and getting better and better.

The lads have been fantastic with me and I could not wish to be part of a better rugby union group of players than my team-mates at Yorkshire Carnegie.

They have supported and guided me and that has been very humbling. The coaching staff have been brilliant with me too and, whilst it has not been an easy transition, I have to say I would have been disappointed if it had been easy.

Having been with Yorkshire Carnegie for nearly two months, I am finding my routine now as a rugby union player and certainly how to pace myself in the games.

Through the repetition in training, things are coming more natural for me and my understanding of the game is improving with every training session.

I am really enthused about what is in front of me, especially playing over the Christmas period, which is not something I have ever done as a professional.

With the Rhinos, we play a friendly fixture at Headingley on Boxing Day each year but I haven’t always been involved in those games and, by their nature, they are not as intense as when there are league points at stake.

To be able to play around Christmas and New Year is something that is new for me, especially as it will be a challenging period for us with two tough games.

This week we play the return game at London Scottish. Our preparations this week will be helped by the fact that we had a look at them last week and have played against them on Sunday.

There is less analysis to do but we will pick the bones out of the first game before going down there on Saturday and trying to replicate that performance.

I have no doubt (head coach) Bryan Redpath will highlight areas where we need to be better and we will work on that this week before looking forward to the trip down there.

I think our young players have been some of our best performers this season. Taylor Prell has been outstanding in recent weeks and young Max Wright has really stepped up this level.

Everyone knows the quality that our hooker Jack Walker possesses whilst Josh Bainbridge and Jack Barnard having given the coaches some headaches with their performances. I think it is great when you get a good mix of exciting young players and experienced senior players within a squad.

Someone like Dean Schofield really set the standard on Sunday at Scarborough with his performance playing a full 80 minutes. It is a pleasure to play alongside him, I know his history in the game and to be around him and see how he performed on Sunday was great. If we can keep hold of those young lads it certainly bodes well for Yorkshire Carnegie when you combine their talent with the likes of Dean, Chris Jones and Chris Pilgrim, the future does look bright.

I was delighted that Yorkshire Carnegie got back to winning ways on Sunday with our win over London Scottish in the British & Irish Cup at Scarborough.

First and foremost, we produced a great team performance, which was exactly what we needed on the back of three losses.

It was important that we got a win but more importantly that we played well as a team. Competition for places at the minute is really strong and it was vital that, coming into the Christmas period, we start to build some momentum.

It was great to be at Scarborough. I had never been to Silver Royd before.

The set-up was fantastic and everyone was so welcoming. Considering the amount of rain and bad weather we have had in recent weeks, the pitch was in really good shape and that made a great day all round.

I am very happy with how we played on Sunday and I think that is the bench mark for us going forward. If we can hit that standard most weeks, we will not be far off by the end of the season.

Last Sunday’s game at Scarborough was part of the club’s policy of playing home Cup games on the road at clubs around Yorkshire. The facilities and the people at Scarborough were brilliant.

It was a great exercise all round and I am fully behind the club’s policy of taking these games on the road to encourage people to come and watch the team.

We are trying to spark people’s interest in Yorkshire Carnegie and Sunday’s game was a great indication of how important it can be to take these games out into the rugby union community in the county.

To see a decent crowd, including so many locals, coming to support Yorkshire Carnegie was important. I would like to think some of those fans from Scarborough will come down to Headingley Carnegie later in the year to support the boys.

I am really looking forward to a busy weekend. First and foremost we have Saturday’s clash with London Scottish. Gameday is always the best day of the week for me.

It will be a huge challenge to play the same team twice in a week but I haven’t played at London Scottish before so there is certainly a freshness there for me.

If we can get the job done on Saturday it will set things up nicely for Sunday.

Kalvin Phillips

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