THE MAN of the match in Leeds Rhinos’ first Super League Grand Final triumph celebrates his 32nd birthday today. (Jan 27)
Dewsbury-born Matt Diskin spent 10 years in Rhinos’ senior squad before being released from his contract and making the short move to neighbours Bradford Bulls at the end of the 2010 campaign.
His decade as a Leeds first teamer saw him make 195 starting appearances with another 37 off the bench and brought both incredible highs and painful lows.
A product of the Dewsbury Moor club, hooker Diskin came through Rhinos’ academy system and made his debut in a BBC-televised Challenge Cup win over Castleford in 2001.
He got his chance because of an injury to Australian Robbie Mears and played 17 times in his first campaign.
He became first-choice when Mears returned to Australia at the end of the year and was Rhinos’ undisputed No 1 hooker until the shock signing of Aussie legend Danny Buderus in 2009.
Then-coach Brian McClennan’s decision to hand Buderus the No 9 jersey, with Diskin dropping to No 14, seemed a cruel one.
The two shared hooking duties, but Rhinos won their final eight games of the campaign after Buderus suffered a broken leg and Diskin became automatic first-choice once more.
That culminated in Diskin’s fourth Grand Final winner’s ring, after St Helens were defeated at Old Trafford. He had probably his finest season in blue and amber in 2004 when Leeds won their maiden title, losing just two league matches en-route. Diskin missed just one game all year and was named Rhinos’ player of the season. He also scored a try in the Grand Final win over Bradford and won the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match.
That season saw him top Rhinos’ tackle count with 685 and the Grand Final touchdown was his 12th of the season.
His form that year earned him a Great Britain call-up for the end-of-season internationals, but he suffered a serious knee injury just 17 minutes into his first – and so far only – Test appearance, against New Zealand.
He bounced back to start in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Grand Final victories and was also Challenge Cup runner-up in 2003 and 2005 and played in the Leeds team which lost to Bradford in the 2005 Grand Final. With Buderus under contract for two more years and Paul McShane and Liam Hood both waiting in the wings Diskin took the chance to move to Bradford ahead of the 2011 season, though he had to share hooking duties there with Heath L’Estrange.
The pair were co-captains in 2012 and 2013 and Diskin took over the role when the Aussie left the club at the end of last year.