Rhinos legend Sinfield - rugby league will never see his like again

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NOT only is Kevin Sinfield the greatest club captain in the history of Leeds and probably rugby league but he is one of the sport’s finest players and ambassadors.

The word legend gets bandied about far too often, but Sinfield deserves that tag. He made his Rhinos debut 18 years ago after a junior career during which was was hailed as one of England’s best-ever schoolboy players.

Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield

Since his first game, against Sheffield Eagles in August, 1997, the Oldham-born adopted Loiner has made 496 appearances for Leeds, scoring 85 tries, 1,678 goals, 37 drop goals and 3,733 points.

He is Leeds and Super League’s record goals and points scorer and only three players have a better career points tally than Sinfield’s 3,997.

By the time he quits rugby league at the end of this season, to join Leeds’ union sister club Yorkshire Carnegie, he will have passed Gus Risman’s tally and only Neil Fox and Jim Sullivan will be above him on the 13-a-side code’s all time list.

Amazingly, Sinfield is actually under-rated, despite his remarkable achievements: captain of six Grand Final-winning teams, three World Club Challenge victories and a Challenge Cup triumph.

Some of those who don’t watch Sinfield every week regard him as world-class kicker, but an average player. The argument is, he never got the better of the Aussies at Test level. That makes every Englishman since 1970 average and it is, frankly, nonsense.

Sinfield may not be the quickest, the best passer or the strongest defender, but he does every aspect to a very high level.

His game-management is second to none and Leeds would not have won the trophies they have without him in the side. As a captain, he is nothing short of inspirational, as his record highlights.

Anyone who thinks Sinfield is over-rated should watch a replay of the 2012 Grand Final. Warrington threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Leeds pivot, who was actually knocked unconscious at one stage. But he got up and kept prompting, inspiring a stunning against-the-odds victory in which he scored a try and five goals and - for the second time - won the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match.

He then dusted himself off and made a faultless winner’s speech to the 70,000 crowd. Sinfield isn’t just an outstanding athlete, he is a world class sportsman in every sense of the world.

Had he started his career in union, instead of finishing there, he would be a household name by now. Even so, he is an MBE and known as one of the greatest in any sport - up alongside the likes of Trueman, Boycott, Bremner or Charles - to have plied his trade in his adopted city.

Sinfield can be cautious in front of the cameras or a television microphone and has a dour image, which is the opposite of the truth.

He’s smart, articulate and good company, the very definition of a role model, on and off the field. At 34, his career was obviously nearing its end, but his decision to join Carnegie has still come as a shock.

It’s a brave move by Sinfield, but will give him a fresh challenge and extend his playing career. The Championship club could not have made a better addition to their squad as they attempt to regain a Premiership place.

As for Rhinos fans’ it has been a tough week with two club legends - Jamie Peacock being the first - confirming they will leave at the end of the year.

Gates should increase over the final seven months of the season, as supporters take a last opportunity to watch Sinfield in blue and amber.

They are lucky to have the opportunity. How he fares in the other code remains to be seen, as does the way Rhinos cope without him, but one thing is for sure - we’ll never see his like again.

Luke Gale celebrates his team-mates after the victory over Salford. Picture: Matthew Merrick.

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