THE GREATEST of his generation.
That’s Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McDermott’s tribute to Jamie Peacock on the eve of the front-row legend’s testimonial game.
Peacock will celebrate the start of his 10th season at Leeds when Rhinos take on his former club Bradford Bulls at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow.
McDermott packed down alongside Peacock at Bradford before coaching him to a clean-sweep of trophies with Leeds and described the 37-year-old prop as one of a kind.
“He has a freak of a mentality,” McDermott said. “He is not the most graceful man who’s ever played our game and certainly not the most skilful, but he has countered all that with unbelievable determination.
“He is probably the fittest man to play the game in his position and he gets incredible numbers every week.
“That’s all well and good, but then you ask what effect he’s had tactically on the game and he has had a massive effect tactically on us.
“He is a fantastic leader, but he is also a very humble man with a real humility about him, which is surprising given he is probably one of the biggest names and best players Super League has seen.”
Despite Peacock’s age, McDermott insisted the front-rower is playing as well as he ever has – and predicted he will make another huge contribution to Rhinos’ cause this year.
“He is still at the top of his game, still in great nick and still immensely proud of the condition of his body,” McDermott said.
“As we all know, the older you get, the smarter you get. Usually you have to retire because of injury when you have started to work out how to play our game. The body gives up and you have to pack in, but he is in a unique position – he knows a fair bit about our game, he knows how to play it and he’s still able to do it, so good on him.”
Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has said he will be “surprised” if Peacock goes through with his pledge to retire at the end of this season, but McDermott reckons it is “too early” to say if he will ask the veteran to play on beyond 2015.
“He has made a decision to retire and we respect that decision,” McDermott said. “JP has a lot of self-respect and if he thinks he can’t do a job or thinks he would be a liability in any area of the
field or any facet of our game, he’d be the first bloke to pack in.
“He has made a decision to pack in at the end of 2015 and let’s hope the season we have will do him justice, but we will not make the season about JP.
“We aren’t going to be all sentimental about it, because that takes your eye off the ball. We’re mindful of it, but we want to do it for the right reasons.”
McDermott was in Bulls’ pack when Peacock broke through into the senior ranks 16 years ago.
He said: “I wouldn’t have expected him to be playing nearly 20 years later, but we knew there was something special about him then, because he was doing things on the field that belied his strength and his skill and his speed.
“What’s changed over the last decade or so is that he’s not so much the physical specimen any more, though he’s no slouch in that department, but he has the heart of a lion.
“The freakish thing is what goes on in his head, that ‘I will not take a backwards step and you will not beat me’ attitude.
“I think he’s the best prop Super League has seen.
“There have been more talented, bigger, heavier, faster, more skilful and more vicious props, but for the whole package, to consistently do it over a period of time, he’s the best prop Super League has ever had.
“And if you asked who has been the most influential player in Super League, you could argue he’s one of the top two or three Super League has produced.”