Leeds Rhinos: It’s always an honour to wear the captain’s armband – McGuire

Kevin Sinfield.

Kevin Sinfield.

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I WAS happy to hand the captaincy back to Kev Sinfield, but I have to admit I enjoyed skippering the side for three games while he was out of the team.

Kev is a great leader and we are a better team when he’s on the field, so it was good to see him back in action on Monday.

I have no idea what Brian McDermott is thinking regarding the captaincy when Kev leaves us at the end of the year, but obviously I’d be honoured to take the role if it’s offered to me.

I don’t think being captain changes the way I prepare or play, or what I do when I’m out on the field, though you do have to do a bit more media work and so on.

If you play in the half-backs you take a captain-like role anyway, because everyone’s relying on you to organise things, get people in the right position, guide the team around the field and effectively be a leader. The only real difference being captain makes is you get to toss the coin and decide which way we are going to play. Plus, you are allowed to speak to the referee.

I know I have got a reputation for doing that anyway and sometimes I have to bite my tongue, but as captain you have to pass on any warnings from the ref or any advice and you are entitled to check decisions with him in the right manner.

Apart from that, it was business as usual for me, but I have to say I really enjoyed my spell as skipper. Even doing it for the occasional game when Kev is out of the team, it is a massive honour. I don’t think you realise how big a privilege it is until you get to do it.

It has given me a new appreciation of what Kev has done for the team over the past 12 years or so.

For him to be skipper for so long – and to play so well while having that extra responsibility – is amazing.

I think Kev must be one of the greatest leaders our sport has ever seen and it has just been nice to keep his place warm while he has been out injured.

I have just tried to do my job for the team and we won all three games, so I must have been doing something right!

The lads were all good to me about it. We have got an experienced team, with some younger players coming in and everybody knows their job and what they need to do on the field.

It’s a very professional set-up and you don’t need to be throwing your weight around or telling people what to do, because everybody is tuned into what we are all about.

We’ve got a number of leaders in our team anyway, including Jamie Peacock, who has captained his country and that’s a fortunate position to be in.

People like Ryan Hall and Jamie Jones-Buchanan are very experienced players and we’ve also got some young players coming through who are anxious to learn their trade, are making great progress and aspire to take over from those of us who are getting to the veteran stage now. I’ve said before in this column how impressed I have been with Liam Sutcliffe. Ash Handley has come in and done a great job covering for Tom Briscoe, Stevie Ward is in great form at the moment and Brad Singleton has really put his hand up this season.

That is what the aim was at the start of the year. I know a lot of people were saying on social media we needed to strengthen the squad and we’d got too many players who were too old. Hopefully we’ve quashed that now. The young lads are playing well and improving week on week and us older heads still have plenty of fuel in the tank.

We have got a good squad. It is still early in the season and we’re not getting carried away with being top of the league. There’s still plenty to work on and I don’t think we’ve put in a full 80-minute performance yet. We’ve played well in a lot of areas and for large periods of matches, but we’d still like to be more consistent, both in attack and defence.

Nobody’s resting on their laurels, we are still working hard and the next few weeks are pretty crucial for us.

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BEING HONEST, I was a bit sceptical when I heard we would be playing New Zealand at Headingley in October.

The game is two weeks after the Grand Final and my first thought was, why do we need to extend what’s already a long season? But having thought about it, I am coming around to the idea. It will be a first for everybody in the team and it is an exciting prospect.

I remember 2001, when we were due to play Australia at the end of the season. Because of the tragedy of 9/11 that was cancelled and they only played the three Test matches.

The last time Leeds played a touring team was 1994 so it has been a long time coming. Everybody is talking about it already and I think it could be a really special night at Headingley Carnegie.

It will be a challenge. We’ve got everything crossed that we’ll be in the Grand Final and win it, so there’ll be some celebrating done after that, then it will be a case of coming back down to Earth and focusing on the game.

If not – and if things haven’t gone the way we want them – we will have to get our chins off the floor and be ready to go again, against some of the best players in the world.

I like the idea of national teams playing club sides. It’s what used to happen. If you weren’t in the Test side you’d be in the midweek team, playing tour matches against clubs.

Our under-19s played the Aussie Schoolboys last December and I know that was a great experience for them, so facing a full Test team will be a big deal.

It’s too late for me now, but I would love to see full tours reintroduced, so the Aussies or Kiwis come over and play the best Super League sides, as well as three Tests and Great Britain go Down Under and take on teams from the NRL.

I think that would really raise the profile of the sport, especially over here.

Tom Briscoe

Leeds Rhinos: I will bounce back from poor show – Briscoe