SUPER LEAGUE legend Jamie Peacock believes he is playing some of his best rugby – at the age of 36.
Leeds Rhinos have designated tomorrow’s home clash with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats ‘JP Day’ as Peacock approaches his 500th career appearance.
The former Bradford Bulls man is the most decorated player of the modern era, with eight Super League titles, four World Club Challenge victories and two Challenge Cup successes to his name, as well as an MBE.
Peacock was Rhinos’ player of the year in 2013 and recently agreed a new contract which will keep him at the club until he retires at the end of next season.
Asked if he feels he is playing as well as ever, Peacock said: “I think so. Not playing for England takes a lot off your mind. Being England captain is the greatest playing job there is, but you come under a lot of stress, you have to concentrate a lot on it and it takes up a lot of your time.
“Now I am free to concentrate just with the Rhinos, I get a full pre-season. A lot of my game is based around being physical and being fit and I am able to pick all that up in pre-season.
“I think you get a lot wiser as you get older and you know what works well for you. I was never a natural rugby league player, but I suppose I have played that many games now and done so much thinking about the game, I know exactly what works for me. I think it’s just about replicating that and doing it every week.”
Peacock’s appetite for the game has not diminished. He said: “I love being in the competition and being involved in games like we had against St Helens and Huddersfield the other week, where it’s tough and you have to be at your best.
“You have to play at nine and a half out of 10, the game could go either way and it is just about that drive and trying to play as well as you possibly can. I love playing alongside some great players at the moment and also some young guys coming through. I hope to set standards for them that they will continue once I have retired.”
But he added: “I am sticking to that (his retirement date). That is when I am going to finish. I am looking forward to the rest of this year and next year and then moving on to the next part of my life.”
As to what that will be, he said: “It is about finding a job really, that’s the reality of it! I need to find work. I have got some ideas about what that might be, but I will come closer to that this time next year. In a year’s time I will have something more definitive in mind.”
Of the prospect of his 500th game, Peacock said: “I remember Karl Harrison, who was our coach at Bradford for a year in 2001. He always used to say ‘I played 502 games and only two knock-ons’. I used to think that’s an incredible number of games for a front-rower to play and I thought I’d never get near that.
“I was only in the first team two years then and I think the process is you sign professional and you want to get in the second team; then you want to make your first-team debut; then you want to make sure you’re in the side most weeks; then you want to make sure you’re a star; then you want to play for England – and the next thing you know you’ve got 3-400 games along the way. Then you want to play for as long as you are enjoying it and all of a sudden, you have got up to 500 games.”
According to RFL statistician Daniel Spencer, Peacock has currently played 499 games, but one of those (Newcastle Division v GB, October 20, 2006) is not counted as an ‘official’ appearance. The match was played at EnergyAustralia Stadium as a warm-up for that season’s Tri-Nations tournament, and Great Britain used an irregular number of substitutes (5).
Peacock’s total therefore stands at 498. Assuming he does feature against the Wildcats, he will be in line to make his 500th official appearance against former club Bradford Bulls at Odsal on Easter Thursday.
Peacock’s games total: 234 for Leeds (2006-2014), 207 for Bradford (1999-2005), 4 for Featherstone (1998, loan), 26 Tests for Great Britain (2001-2007), 23 for England (2000-2001 & 2008-2012) and 4 for Yorkshire (2001-2003).