VICTORY TOMORROW would make the current Leeds Rhinos team the best he has played in, Jamie Peacock says.
The Grand Final against Wigan Warriors will be the last match of Peacock’s illustrious career and he has an opportunity to bow out by making history.
Rhinos have never won the Challenge Cup, league leaders’ shield and Super League trophy in the same season and Peacock reckons it will be his greatest achievement if they do.
“It’s up there with the best in my career,” Peacock said of the 2015 Leeds team. “I’ve been really lucky to play in some great sides in all my career, but if we win the treble I think it’ll be the best.
“It’s more difficult to do now than ever before because there’s more than one or two good sides. When I won the treble in 2003 [with Bradford Bulls] the structure wasn’t how it is now – the Challenge Cup was in May for example.
“It’ll be tough to do. It’s hard because emotionally Wembley takes a lot out of you. When you win you celebrate and then it’s difficult the week after and the week after and so on.
“Luckily that Huddersfield result, when we won the league leaders’ shield, gave us such an emotional lift and there’s a lot of emotion involved with this sport.
“We took that into the St Helens game last week and the side’s pretty buoyant at the moment. We’ve played a lot of games and are down on numbers, but we’re confident.”
Peacock is under no illusions about the scale of the task facing Rhinos tomorrow. Leeds won the two meetings between the sides at Headingley, but Wigan triumphed at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle and in their home league encounter.
“We’ve served up some great games this year between us,” Peacock said.
“We’ve been the best two sides all year so it’s great to see us both at Old Trafford. I’m sure it’ll be an intense game and a really good one.”
It will be Wigan’s third successive Grand Final.
They lost to St Helens a year ago, after having prop Ben Flower sent-off in the opening moments.
“There’s some pressure on Wigan after what happened last year,” Peacock added.
“A lot of people said they’d have won the game if the incident hadn’t happened, then they put the pressure on themselves to get back to Old Trafford again.
“It’s up to them to deliver a big performance, but we’re standing in their way.
“It’s the same for us, we want the fairytale finish, but we know there’s a great team in our way as well.”
Flower will get a shot at redemption tomorrow and Peacock said he is pleased his fellow front-rower has managed to put last year behind him.
“I had no doubts Ben Flower would come back a better player from that,” he said.
“It was a moment of madness and he has moved on from it. Everyone’s allowed to make a mistake in life.
“He’s a great player and a tough player to play against – he’s a player I’ve got a lot of respect for.”
Another winner’s ring would be the perfect finale for Peacock, as well as Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai, who will also be playing their last game for Rhinos. Sending the trio out on a high has been part of the team’s motivation, particularly since their Challenge Cup final victory in August, but Peacock said he has tried not to get too caught up in thoughts of the treble.
“We all dream of finishing like this, but at the beginning of the year you don’t think about how you want it to end,” he said.
“I just wanted to get back here. We won the Challenge Cup and then against Huddersfield and then you think we’re on the verge of something special.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve dreamed about it all year, it’s just been a week-to-week thing.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve started to think about how I’d love it to end this way though.”
Of the other two retiring players, he added: “It would be good to go out with Kev that way. We complement each other well in terms of style and personality.
“It has been great to play alongside him and Kylie – he’s a prop that’s been immense for this club. It’s been a fantastic year and a pleasure to play in this side.”