Leeds Rhinos: Best-kept secret in RL took us all by surprise – McGuire

Kevin Sinfield.

Kevin Sinfield.

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As players, we were as much in the dark about this week’s big announcement as everybody else.

We heard on Monday that something “significant” was happening and there would be a press conference the following day, but we didn’t know what was going to be announced.

On Tuesday morning Kevin Sinfield told the boys this will be his last season and he is leaving at the end of the year to join Yorkshire Carnegie. That was the first we knew about it.

Normally you get whispers that something’s up and maybe a hint of what it is all about, but this was a really well-kept secret. It was a bit of a bombshell, but being honest, I wasn’t totally surprised.

Over the past 14 years or so I have spent a lot of time with Kev, I’ve roomed with him on quite a number of occasions and he has always expressed an interest in rugby union. It is something we have discussed in the past and I know he’s had previous offers.

So I wasn’t shocked when he told us, but I was – and still am – a bit upset.

Kev is a really good mate and I have spent the whole of my career playing alongside him, so it’s disappointing in those terms.

It’s hard to believe that our last match this year will be the final time we play together.

Kev has been one of the all-time greats for the Rhinos and not having him in the team will take a lot of getting used to.

Having said that, I understand his reasons. He didn’t want to leave Leeds, he is passionate about the club and I know he would never play against the Rhinos.

This is a new challenge and opportunity for him, the task of getting Carnegie into the Premiership is something he can really sink his teeth into and it is something that fits really well.

Carnegie have a new board now and a new coach and they are heading in the right direction. Next year is going to be huge for them and I am sure Kev will be a massive influence in their team.

He has never played union, but he watches the game, he is a student of sport and he is a bright bloke, so I am sure he will make a success of the transition.

One good thing is he will still be around the place, he’s only moving to the other side of the building; he certainly isn’t going to get lost on the way to training.

It has been quite a week, with Jamie Peacock also making his announcement about leaving the club and joining Hull KR as their football manager. That’s a similar situation, it is a shame he’s going, but a great opportunity for him.

We always knew the day would come when JP and Kev left. They are both good mates, but the unanimous feeling in the squad is they are moving on for the right reasons and we wish them all the best.

They are definitely going to leave a hole in the team next season. I am not sure it is possible to replace people like Kev and JP, who are legends of the club and the game, but it is part of the cycle of sport: players leave and others take their place.

I don’t know what Gary Hetherington and Brian Mac have got planned for next season, but I am confident we will be in good shape.

Whether players come in from outside the club or not, the youngsters in the squad at the moment are putting their hand up and really staking a claim.

Brad Singleton has made it clear he wants to be a regular in the team not only when JP leaves, but this year as well.

He has made a real impact every time he has stepped on the field and there’s still a lot of improvement in him.

Liam Sutcliffe is another one. He has done a fantastic job filling in for Kev in the past two games and he’s an experienced Super League player, aged just 20.

It is not easy for a young player in a pivotal role, but he is getting better every time he plays and I am sure he has got a huge future in the game.

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Easter is a tough time in the season, but I enjoy it.

We play Castleford this lunchtime and then Wakefield at home on Monday, so it is two games in four days.

There’s always a row at this time of year about whether that is too much, but we are professional players and it is just another part of the challenge.

After today we’ll have a light run-through, do a bit of recovery and just let everybody’s bumps and bruises heal. It will be an intense match today, so everyone will be feeling a bit sore, but the conditioners know what they are doing and they are used to managing us through spells like this.

We’ll have a couple of massages and we’ll be doing everything possible to be in decent shape for Monday.

We won’t be 100 per cent for that one, but no team will. Everybody will be carrying a few knocks, but it’s just a matter of getting through that game and putting in the best performance possible.

Inevitably there will be a few tired minds and weary bodies, but that’s where the strength of the squad counts.

I don’t know what Brian Mac is thinking team-wise for Monday, but there might well be a few fresh bodies coming in.

It is a big challenge on the back of tough games at Catalans and Cas, but it will be good to get back home and we’re looking forward to running out in front of our own fans again.

We’ve got two lunchtime kick-offs coming up, because the game at Salford a week on Sunday has been brought forward to 1pm. It’s the Manchester football derby that day and I think United and City were worried about their crowd being affected.

It suits me. When you are a kid you’re used to getting up, having breakfast and playing. I always used to enjoy that and it’s better than hanging around waiting for 8pm.

Alex Walmsley.

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