Leeds Rhinos: New career directions on and off the playing field – Danny McGuire

Ashton Golding

Ashton Golding

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IT’S SAD my mate Richie Mathers has retired this week.

He isn’t going out the way he would want to and that’s really disappointing for him, because he has had a great career.

He has won a Grand Final, a World Club Challenge and the Challenge Cup twice and played for the two biggest clubs in the game, Leeds and Wigan.

He was also brave enough to go and test himself in the NRL when he could have stayed here where he was comfortable.

Richie is a really good bloke. He has had to cope with a lot over the years and his six-month ban, for something he totally denies, is another setback, but I am sure he will bounce back and make a success of whatever he decides to do next.

I was at an event at Headingley on Tuesday night as part of Garry Schofield’s testimonial, along with Kev Sinfield and with Jamie Jones-Buchanan as master of ceremonies.

Jonesy could definitely make a living out of that when he hangs up his boots. He is a natural and very funny.

It was a legends of rugby league-type of thing and I was honoured to be included alongside two of Leeds’ greats.

Schoey is somebody I grew up watching and I have always looked up to and modelled myself on as a player.

Since he retired he is a bit like Marmite – you either love him or hate him – but it was a great event and there was some really good chat and banter about rugby league and our careers in the game. Being there got me thinking about Kev and the fact he has only got, at most, five games left with us before he joins Yorkshire Carnegie.

I know he will still be around the place and we’ll probably see him most days, but it is going to be a massive change. Ever since I first came to Leeds, when I was 13, Kev has probably been at every training session I have attended. He is a huge part of the club and it is not going to be the same without him.

Coming back in for training in the autumn and him not being there will be really strange, but we are all determined to send him out on a high.

We’ve got the opportunity to do that and it’s a case of one down and three to go with the Challenge Cup already in the bag. We’ve got a lot of work still to do, especially after last week.

We were disappointed with how we performed, we were a bit flat, but Saints deserve a lot of credit. They played well and kicked the ball a lot better than they have done against us previously.

They turned us around and took a lot of energy out of us.

But even though we didn’t play well, we hung in there and showed a lot of determination and spirit, so we were disappointed, but not too downhearted. That said, we all know we will have to play a lot better this week, against Catalans. We are flying to and from Perpignan tomorrow, but we have done that before and we know the processes we have to go through to make sure we get the job done. Hopefully we’ll have a couple of people back and we’re confident if we play well we can get the two points.

That’s vital at this stage, because Wigan are breathing down our necks. They have been very consistent in recent weeks and it doesn’t look like they will drop any more points, so we can’t afford to slip up.

We are three games away from being league leaders, which was one of our goals at the start of the year. We have worked hard to get into this position and we don’t want to let all that effort go to waste.

Hopefully Zak Hardaker will be fit to play this week, though I thought young Ashton Golding did a good job against Saints.

He has got a very bright future in the game if he keeps working hard and playing the way he has been.

Zak has just been voted Super League player of the month and that’s good recognition for the way he has been going. Paul Aiton got the award earlier in the season and I think a few other Leeds boys are unlucky not to have won it as well, but I am really pleased for Zak.

He has been brilliant all year.

Finally, I was really pleased to sign a new two-year contract with the Rhinos. I love it here and I’ve never wanted to play anywhere else. Hopefully we can pick up some more trophies before my deal ends in 2017.

Matt Parcell.  PIC: Tony Johnson

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