Leeds Rhinos star Danny McGuire gives his verdict on all things rugby league.
A TEAM changing room before a rugby league match is a unique place.
It’s like a second home to me, because I’ve been playing for most of my life, but I thought this week I’d provide a quick insight into what it will be like behind the scenes as we prepare to face Wakefield this evening.
Nobody is quite the same and everyone has their own little ways of preparing. I think probably 60 per cent of the players are really relaxed and you can’t tell they are about to go into battle in an hour or so’s time and then you get the more serious type of players who have got their focused head on.
Keith Senior was one of those who could be laughing and joking right up until the warm-up, but as soon as he flicked the switch you could tell he was ready to play.
He was a good example of someone who didn’t take things too seriously and could be really relaxed before a game, but would still go out and produce a world-class performance.
I am one of the other camp, who likes to focus and get ready an hour or two before the game, start preparing, looking at what I want to do and begin getting mentally ready to play.
Everybody is different and the trick to a contented changing room is making sure everybody can prepare in their own way, without upsetting anyone else, so it is an interesting environment.
Rob Burrow is funny because he likes to be changed and ready about two hours before kick-off. If anybody got changed before him it would probably totally mess him up and put him off his game, because that’s his routine and what he likes doing.
That’s just the way he likes to get ready and prepare. It’s not my style, but when you look at how successful he’s been over the years, it is what works for him.
I don’t listen to music pre-match, but most of the others boys do and when we’re having a look at the pitch when we arrive at away games you’ll see most of the team wearing headphones.
I don’t think there’s any major superstitions in our team, though we all have a set routine we like to follow.
I like to arrive and have a massage and everyone gets their strapping done and has a chat or a bit of work with the physio.
I can cope if that routine gets broken and I think most of the boys are the same. We are all professionals and part of that is being able to deal with whatever gets thrown at you, but we do all have particular drinks we like to take on board and so on and you feel better if you can do what you always do, when you always do it.
At a home game we make our own way to the ground and usually arrive an hour and a half before kick-off, then it’s a case or reporting to the changing room, doing what needs to be done, maybe watching a bit of the under-19s game if there’s a curtain-raiser and then switching on for the battle ahead.
The coach usually has his say about 40 minutes before kick-off, just before we go out to warm-up. From about an hour before warm-up the room starts buzzing and everyone’s getting around each other and interacting, with the half-backs talking together, the forwards having a chat and everybody setting little goals and things they want to achieve in the game. Then it’s the warm-up, back in for a few final words and out into battle.
Wakefield could easily re-ignite their season if we’re not fully switched on
WE WILL have to be switched on tonight. Making sure we aren’t complacent is a big challenge.
It is a strange situation playing the same team twice in six days, especially after a 60-6 win in the first match.
The short turn-around is a big challenge as well, to get everybody physically ready, but mentally the test is trying to emulate Sunday’s good performance and big win. I think it is the sign of a good team if you can forget about what has happened previously and just concentrate on the job at hand. Wakefield are no mugs and I think they will be a different team tonight.
They will be fired up, they will have been disappointed with their performance on Sunday and they will want to put in a better effort today. There are no guarantees in sport and just because we played well and had a good win the other day, that doesn’t mean it will happen again tonight.
I was nervous before the Challenge Cup game and I thought we would have our hands full to get a win, so I was shocked by the margin of victory. Looking at Wakey’s team, it was a strong line-up, but for some reason they just didn’t get it together on the day.
Knowing quite a few of their boys, I can imagine how much last week will have hurt, so there’s no doubt they will be looking to put things right tonight.
We were happy with how we played, but we are expecting a definite backlash this week and I am sure it will be a lot tougher game. When you look across their team, Wakefield have got an impressive squad and I hope their fans and the people in charge can be a bit patient. It does take a while to gel when you bring in as many new faces as they have, but they have shown in flashes this year what they are capable of and when they get it together they have the potential to beat any team on their day.
Richard Agar is a good coach and they have got some good players and I am sure they will find their feet in a few weeks’ time.
We have to make sure they don’t get a win tonight which could kick-start their season. We aren’t looking further ahead than Wakefield, but obviously the Challenge Cup fifth round is coming up later this month.
We would have preferred to avoid Saints, but we are at home, which is the main thing and if you are going to win the Cup you have to face good sides at some stage, so we will look forward to it when the time comes.
Rhinos duo deserve accolades
CONGRATULATIONS IN advance to Jamie Peacock and Ian Kirke, who are on the verge of major milestones.
It will be JP’s 500th game tonight and that is an amazing achievement, especially for a player who has spent his entire career in the pack.
The fact he has got to so many matches is a huge effort, but to still be playing as well as he is is testament to how professional he has been and how well he has looked after himself.
He is the most mentally tough player I have played with and he inspires everyone around him.
Kirkey is one game away from 200 for Leeds and that is another great effort, especially for someone who was signed from the lower divisions.
Kirkey is a quiet achiever, but everybody in the team appreciates the hard work he does. He is very fit, he looks after himself well and he does all the unnoticed work that every successful team needs.
He’s not a fancy player and I think fans probably don’t realise what a big contribution he makes to the team, but what he does is rated very highly by everybody in the squad.