LEEDS RHINOS’ golden decade began on Saturday, October 16, 2004.
On a memorable evening at Old Trafford, Rhinos put 32 years of disappointment behind them by winning their first Super League Grand Final.
Leeds were the dominant force that season, finishing nine points clear at the top of the table and losing only twice in the league, but nobody could have predicted the success which was to follow for the young Rhinos team.
Over the next 10 years Leeds went on to win every available trophy: Five more Super League titles, three World Club Challenges, another league leaders’ shield – and this year they completed the set by lifting the Challenge Cup.
To mark the most successful period in the Leeds club’s history, over the next weeks the Yorkshire Evening Post will be looking back at each of the past 10 seasons.
Every Monday we will reflect on one of the campaigns from 2004 to 2014, focusing on the highs and lows, the key matches and the players who made Rhinos the biggest and most successful club in the game.
During the past 11 seasons Rhinos reached an incredible seven Grand Finals, winning six of them.
Three times the World Club Challenge trophy was lifted by Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield, with Rhinos suffering defeat on another three occasions.
The Challenge Cup became Leeds’ Holy Grail as losses in 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012 contrasted sharply with the club’s Grand Final dominance, before that was finally put right two months ago.
Five players have been there throughout: Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Bailey playing in all six Grand Final triumphs and becoming immortals of the club.
Other great players over the past decade include ex-England captain Jamie Peacock, who won three Grand Finals with Bradford – and skippered them in 2005 – before another five titles in blue and amber.
Danny Buderus was an Aussie legend who had a tough time as a Rhino, but came good in glorious fashion in 2011, playing a central role in that year’s Old Trafford success.
Ali Lauitiiti’s arrival midway through 2004 kept Rhinos on track that year and fittingly he played his 200th and last game for the club in the 2011 final.
And who could forget Aussie winger Scott Donald’s sensational touchdown, which set Leeds on course for victory over Saints in 2007?
Three coaches have masterminded Rhinos’ triumphs over the past decade. Tony Smith began it all with his tactical mastery, Brian McClennan’s motivational skills kept the bandwagon rolling and Brian McDermott has become the most successful team boss in the club’s history.
Don’t miss the Yorkshire Evening Post every Monday as we look back over the glory years.
And we want your input on the golden decade too: email your memories to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @PeteSmithYEP or write to Sports Desk, Yorkshire Evening Post, No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE.