TWO OF his fellow legends are coming to the end of their Leeds Rhinos careers, but veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan is still going strong.
Danny McGuire has signed for Hull KR from next year and fellow 34-year-old Rob Burrow is set to hang up his boots at the end of this season.
That will leave Jones-Buchanan as the last member of the golden generation still standing in 2018.
At 35 he is the the oldest player in Rhinos’ squad and made his debut, in May, 1999, before team-mate Jack Walker and Harry Newman, who is set to make his first senior appearance in tomorrow’s regular season finale at Wigan Warriors, were born.
He is 12 years older than the average age of this evening’s initial 19, but says he is enjoying his rugby as much now as he has ever done.
Having played the full 80 minutes in each of Rhinos’ past two games, he said: “I am loving it. It is exciting, it [playing full games] is not easy but it is probably my cup of tea.
“I have always been a bit of an endurance guy, there’s not much exciting quality in there – apart from the odd chip and chase – but I am a grafter. That’s what I do and I am happy to work hard for the team.”
Jones-Buchanan will need to put another big shift in tomorrow evening for a Leeds side missing 13 first-team players. Up to seven teenagers could face the defending champions, but Jones-Buchanan, who will captain the side against Wigan, insisted: “We have got quality all the way through the side. Young boys like Jack Walker are coming in and scoring opportunist tries and that’s what you need.
“Jordan Lilley put the ball under his wing and played in the middle for a bit last week and it’s good to have those tough characters. They will keep building and keep developing and keep growing as characters and that’s good for the future.”
Rhinos will finish second in the Betfred Super League table whatever happens in tomorrow’s game. They have improved seven places from last year and Jones-Buchanan reflected: “It is pleasing – I think if, after the Super-8s, you can finish in the top-two and get yourselves a home draw in the semi-finals, that’s outstanding, but there’s a long way to go yet.
“There’s a lot of games to be played and things can change overnight in rugby league.”
Despite their weakened squad, Jones-Buchanan said Rhinos are not going to Wigan just to make up the numbers.
“We want to keep gathering momentum,” he added. “We were exceptional with the ball in hand at Salford and last week, against Hull, we were probably off the pace a little bit.
“What we will take from the Hull game is the grind and the tenacity and the determination and the willingness to put bodies on the line.
“We’re just really happy we’ve shown we can grind out games, after losing a couple of players early on, against a really tough Hull side. It is always a bruising game and they are in the top four for a reason so we were really happy with that performance.”