HE WAS once the only Rhinos fan in Castleford.
Now Rob Burrow is one of the players standing between his former hometown team and a first Challenge Cup final triumph since 1986.
The Leeds Rhinos half-back/hooker said: “I am a Cas lad, but I’ve always been a Rhinos fan.
“My dad is from Leeds and he supported Leeds. I remember being seven years old and asking to go to games with him.
“I was always the Leeds supporter in Cas, the only one I knew of.
“It is different now, you see Leeds and Huddersfield shirts and shirts from all clubs, but growing up I was the only one.
“Cas were a good team when I was growing up and Leeds weren’t as high up the table as they are now.
“I was pretty renown for it and I always wanted to play for Leeds.
“I am from Cas, but I never supported them. It wasn’t because I didn’t respect them – Cas is famous for the rugby and it is good to see them doing well now.
“There’s been a few years when they have struggled, but it is good to have a top team in Cas. I know how much it means to the town.
“I live just outside Pontefract now, but I can see the place is buzzing.”
Despite living behind the lines in enemy territory, Burrow said: “I’ve never had any stick.
“There’s the odd joke, but no malice. It is just a bit of fun.
“Xscape is a massive thing around where we live and I spend a lot of time there and they are all lovely.
“That’s down to the type of people who watch the game. They are really kind, they do rub it in when the beat us, but I have never found it hard being a Leeds player in Cas.
“They are a lovely set of people and they love their rugby.
“I think they respect me and I’ve always made it known I am a proud Cas lad, as much as I love Leeds.”
But Burrow will be hoping to make his neighbours miserable at Wembley this afternoon, at the end of his sixth Challenge Cup final.
Always the bridesmaid so far, he said: “We need to win this one.
“It is a goal every year. I know people say there’s a hoodoo, but it is nothing like that.
“People ask why we’ve never been able to win a final and it’s just because we’ve not played well on the day. We’ve been outplayed.
“We’ve managed to outplay teams in the Grand Final, but in the Challenge Cup we’ve just not turned up on the day.
“It’s not the occasion or anything like that, we just haven’t played well and we haven’t deseerved to win.
“We are going to search for that performance because we will need it against Cas.
“They are confident and rightfully so.
“They have been fantastic this year.”
Burrow has won six Grand Finals, been a World Club champion three times and top of the table twice.
“Obviously I’d love to win the Challenge Cup,” he admitted. I will do whatever I can, as will everybody else in the team.
“Some people go through their career and never win a thing, so I feel proud of what I’ve achieved.
“But we are determined to do it and I would love to win a Wembley final, especially with this group of men.”