Kevin Sinfield: Leeds Rhinos legend bows out with upbeat message about club's future
Club legend Kevin Sinfield is confident he has left Leeds Rhinos in a far healthier state than when he returned three years ago.
Sinfield stepped down from his role as director of rugby last night, following the Betfred Super League clash with Warrington Wolves at Emerald Headingley.
Earlier in the day, he became the 20th player inducted into Rhinos’ hall of fame.
The other new members are Jim Brough (442 appearances from 1925-44), Don Robinson (296 appearances from 1956-64) and Alan Smith (479 appearances from 1962-83).
Sinfield returned to Rhinos in July, 2018, three years after his final game as a player.
Assessing the situation now, the 40-year-old insisted: “I look at the makeup of our squad next year and see the turnaround in the [salary] cap and the squad depth and personnel and young players coming through and it is something I will watch with a smile on my face next year, knowing the club is in a decent place.”
Sinfield, who has joined the coaching staff of rugby union giants Leicester Tigers, insisted: “I am very positive, the squad’s in good shape.
“Our middles are the best in the comp’ and Kruise [Leeming] is getting better and better.
“An area we knew we needed strengthening was the second-row and [new signing from St Helens] James Bentley brings some aggression and something different. He is not a big man, but he gets under people’s skin and can also play in the centre if needs-be.”
Talks between Sinfield and club chief executive Gary Hetherington failed to reach agreement after he admitted he was no longer getting satisfaction from his work.
That led to his departure and Sinfield stressed: “I am still sad and disappointed I am going because I look at it and think it’s going to be a brilliant couple of years.
“Ultimately, we couldn’t find a solution, but I will still get a lot of satisfaction looking from afar. I want the club to do well.”
As a member of Rhinos’ golden generation, Sinfield knows the importance of having a core of young, home-produced players in the squad and believes the club is also strong in that regard.
He said: “We have been able to secure some really good kids. Our scholarship and academy programmes are very strong.
“I do believe we develop great people as well as great rugby players.
“We know they are not going to make it, but I think the job that’s been done is excellent and we have some wonderful talent in the system.
“We’ve seen that first-hand with the emergence of Morgan Gannon this year.
“He is a baby and you only have to look at his performances to see what a wonderful career he has got ahead of him.
“The club has to continue that development and continue working with and shaping those players, but we are in a good place.”
Sinfield’s son Jack is a member of Rhinos’ under-16s side and the former captain is looking forward to watching Leeds - and rugby league - as a fan.
“I will be about, I love the sport,” he stressed.
“I am going and doing a different job, not leaving the sport.
“There’s a number of ex-players in our sport that don’t work in it.
“I am going and doing something that will give me some satisfaction and a challenge and an opportunity to work in a completely different environment, out of my comfort zone.
“But that does not change my feeling towards the sport or the club.
“They have both given me a lot and I will always be grateful for that.”
Of rugby league’s future, he added: “I think the game as a whole has got some challenges over the next couple of years.
“We need to increase the number of people playing our sport, both boys and girls.
“That won’t change, there will never be enough, but we certainly need to get more than we’ve got at the minute.
“I reckon that’s the big challenge for all of us - and I include myself in that - to get people to pick a ball up and play league.
“That player pool needs to keep getting bigger and bigger.”
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