Rob Burrow led the tributes to his old half-back partner Danny McGuire and predicted his successor as Leeds captain after bringing the curtain down on his career in glorious fashion.
Burrow, 35, hung up his boots after helping the Rhinos to a record-extending eighth Grand Final triumph at Old Trafford with a resounding 24-6 victory over his home-town club Castleford.
It was also Burrow’s eighth victory and came just 12 months after his club were forced to battle against relegation after a miserable 2016.
“It’s not really sunk in,” Burrow said. “To perform that well against such a good side is special. This group of players really believe in themselves. I think we took a lot out of last year and were determined to bounce back.
“There is a sort of feeling of invincibility with this team. That’s not in any way arrogance, you just believe in yourselves.
“You can’t come here and dip your toe in you, you’ve got to leave the performance. I think with us form is irrelevant, as long as you turn up and perform. It’s probably something Leeds have got over most teams, being able to play well here.
“I’ve been very lucky to be involved with some special players. Just to win one trophy would have been something but to have won the amount I have over my career is something I never expected.”
Burrow insists there is no going back on his decision to retire and he will donate his boots to charity before embarking on a coaching career with Leeds.
“I’m done,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my career. I didn’t want to go on too long. I’m really happy to go out like this.”
Just as Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai had bowed out with Grand Final glory two years earlier, it was a fairytale finish for both Burrow and skipper McGuire, who scored two tries, kicked two drop goals and generally teased the life out of Castleford to become a unanimous winner of the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match.
McGuire, 34, plans to play on, having signed a two-year contract with promoted Hull KR, and Burrow said: “There is life in the old dog yet, isn’t there?
“He led the team perfectly and good on him, he deserves the Harry Sunderland Trophy.
“Danny has got this extra skill which is opportunism. He has a knack of being in the right place at the right time.”
Winger Tom Briscoe also scored two tries, taking his career total to 150, as the Rhinos ended an eight-match losing run against the Tigers.
Leeds must now find a new captain and Burrow says there is no better candidate than 23-year-old Stevie Ward, who recovered from a dislocated shoulder in a week to play the full 80 minutes at Old Trafford.
“I love Stevie Ward,” Burrow said. “He’s an absolutely fantastic player and a fantastic bloke as well.
“In 2015 he missed the Grand Final through injury and it looked set to be that way again but crazy things have happened. From being down and out, he put in a great performance and I’m so happy for him. He’s worked so hard, I love to see him do well.
“He would be my choice as the next captain if you ask me.
“You can either go with somebody who has been there a while for the next couple of years or you go with somebody long-term like Kev Sinfield. He wears that same number 13 shirt and I’m sure he’d be a great captain.”