Yet another milestone is within the reach of Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield.
The 34-year-old could become only the fourth player in the Leeds club’s 125-year history to reach 500 appearances, when Rhinos face Warrington Wolves tomorrow. Sinfield, who made his debut in 1997, is already Leeds’ and Super League’s record goals and points scorer. Earlier this season he became only the fourth rugby league player to pass 4,000 career points and he is just 22 behind Gus Risman, who is the third-highest scorer in the sport’s history.
“It is something I am really proud of,” Sinfield said of the prospect of his 500th game for Leeds. “You probably set different goals and milestones along the way. The first is to make your debut, then it’s your first five, first 10, then 50 and so on. I don’t suppose you think about it at any stage, but you do get reminded when you reach the big numbers, like 100 games and 250.
“It seems to have gone really quickly and to play 500 games for a club like ours is a big honour.”
Sinfield said he remembers his debut, a home defeat by Sheffield Eagles, “like it was yesterday”. He recalled: “I was 16. The day before, I got my GCSE results. I couldn’t go because I was in training, so my parents had to collect them.
“It happened really quickly, from getting my results to making my debut. Unfortunately we lost, but it was a massive learning experience. It showed what I needed to be and needed to do going forward.”
Sinfield has been Leeds’ captain since 2001, leading them to two league leaders’ shields, six Grand Final wins, three World Club Challenges and the Challenge Cup, last year.
He singled out the 2012 Grand Final win over Warrington Wolves, when he scored a try and five goals,
Despite being knocked out early in the second half, as the one game he’d most like to relive.
This year will be Sinfield’s last at Rhinos, before he switches codes to join Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Club on an 18-month contract in November. He was dropped to the bench for the first time since 2003 last week and could reach his latest milestone as a substitute tomorrow. Sinfield said: “The team’s playing great and our halves are playing great. Everybody’s fighting for a spot and that’s how it should be. My role within the team has changed over the years and my game now is far different to what it was 10 years ago.
“Being able to change and evolve has helped keep me in the game for so long. There are certain things I can’t do – Sutty, Rob and Danny (Liam Sutcliffe, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire) do things I can only dream of, but getting the team around the field, having a good kicking game and bringing the best out of the people around me are my strengths. I still believe that’s my role in the team. I have no problem being on the bench. I’d love to start, but it has to be the right thing for the team. As long as the team’s winning, everyone’s happy.”
Leeds Rhinos’ Challenge Cup clash against Huddersfield Giants on Saturday, May 16 will be shown live on BBC1, kick-off 2.30pm.
The following day (May 17), Wakefield Wildcats’ cup clash against Leigh will be shown live on BBC2, kick-off 2.15pm.