Danny McGuire: An honour to be given captain’s armband

Danny McGuire, right

Danny McGuire, right

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I truly didn’t think captaining Leeds Rhinos would affect me in quite the way it has.

It’s weird actually.

It’s something I’ve not really done before. Don’t get me wrong, I did quite a bit in the Leeds Academy sides.

But when it comes to the first team and Kev (Sinfield) having been there so long – and very, very rarely missing any games – there’s not been that many opportunities to do it.

We’ve got JP as well, a former England captain, so we’re not short of options when it comes to leading the side.

But when Mac asked me to do it recently it was a really, really proud moment for me.

I didn’t think I’d be that emotional about it all but it did affect me more than I expected it would.

It is such a big honour to captain Leeds, my hometown club who I grew up supporting and a team I’ve played for for the entirety of my career.

Obviously, I speak quite a bit anyway playing the position I do.

I have to be vocal as a half-back directing people around.

So, things haven’t changed too much.

It does mean I can talk to the refs a bit more so I can have more of a chunter at them if I want.

But I’m not one for Churchillian speeches before kick-off or anything like that.

I think it’s more important to lead by example and lead by what you do rather than what you say.

It’s not written in our contracts as such at Rhinos but we all know it’s expected of us to help younger players through and guide them in their careers.

I’ve grown up playing for this club and, hopefully, after I’ve retired, someone else will have come through and done the same and I’ll have helped him do that.

People like myself, Kev, JP, Jonesy and Rob Burrow know we have to pass on all our experience to the next generation.

I’d like to think I’ve got another four years or so and JP’s probably got a couple but it will all happen eventually.

We enjoy doing that, though, and there’s plenty of young lads currently getting their chance.

Losing games like we did at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats last Friday, though, is not excusable just because we’ve been missing seven or eight players.

We still had enough firepower to win that game – and we did came close to doing it – and our younger players are all ready to play.

But we missed out at the death last week and, of course, that was disappointing.

Obviously, we’ve got Hull KR tonight and an instant chance to right the wrongs of what happened over at Wakey but that’s going to be a stern test, too, looking at what they did to St Helens last Sunday in their first game since Chris Chester replaced Craig Sandercock as head coach.

It’s strange how that sort of thing happens. Often when there’s a change in coach there is a lift in performance although I don’t think anyone saw that result (40-10) against a Saints side that is top of the league. Hull KR’s ground is never the easiest ground to go to at the best of times but that is still some victory over a side that has been in such good form recently.

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IT IS NOT very often that I’m playing in this Leeds side and there’s no Kev (Sinfield) or Rob (Burrow).

It has been a bit strange to say the least. Kev hardly misses any games and Rob’s been pretty consistent all the time – more than a decade – he’s been in this Rhinos team now.

It looks like they will both be back tonight though which is great news for us as it’s obvious just how much they bring to the table.

Kev’s only missed the last two but Rob’s been out since the Challenge Cup tie with St Helens way back in April.

He needed surgery on that and so he’s had a decent stint out and it’s obvious we have missed him in that time.

Rob was having a very strong season before that injury and having a real impact.

But it’s not just his influence on the pitch.

He’s really chirpy off it too and keeps everyone on their toes with his banter.

Rob’s someone who helps everyone relax and it’s great having that sort of character in the ranks. He’s always quick with the jokes and can relieve the tension if needed.

Yet it will be brilliant to see him back out on the field again hopefully against Hull KR tonight.

Rob, right, does things so many players just can’t do and he’s been doing them for more than 14 years now for Leeds.

He’s had 11 or 12 weeks off now, though, so maybe that will also have the bonus of freshening him up for the big push towards the end of the season.

I managed to see a bit of the cricket earlier this week and England are a side who are looking to come up with the goods in the weeks ahead.

After such a disappointing Ashes tour it’s vital they do that against India but I’m a believer in what they always say – a strong Yorkshire will see a strong England.

So, let’s hope Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Liam Plunkett can all have an impact for us along the way this summer.

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Anyone will tell you that, historically, young players get a chance because of injuries and suspensions.

But they have got to take that chance and, at Leeds, they have done. A prime example of that is Josh Walters, above.

It’s been a massive learning curve for him since coming from Leeds Carnegie but he’s done well.

His decision to switch codes is quite similar to Joel Tomkins; he just thought he’d be better at rugby league than union.

Fair play to him, he had the confidence to do that. He’s gone from Leeds Carnegie Academy to starting in our first team in the space of just 12 months. It’s some feat.

He’s really made a mark too. Some players, especially young ones, can shy away from the game a little when they first come in and ease themselves into it all. They lack a bit of confidence.

But Josh has not been like that at all. He’s really got stuck in, worked hard and really slotted in well so, when people do come back, there’s going to be some real battling for places in that back-row with Mitch Achurch and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

Kallum Watkins

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