ANOTHER FIXTURE, another milestone for a Leeds Rhinos player.
Just six days after the club celebrated Jamie Peacock’s 500th career game, Rob Burrow will play his 400th match for the club away to Bradford Bulls tonight.
Burrow’s achievement comes only 10 games into a competitive campaign which has seen Carl Ablett, Ryan Hall and Ian Kirke all reach a double century in blue and amber.
Since the club was founded in 1890, only 80 players have reached 200 appearances – including 10 of the current squad. But Burrow will be entering an even more select group tonight, as the 12th man to play 400 games for Leeds, something only Kevin Sinfield (472 and counting) of the modern generation can also boast.
Though born in Castleford, Burrow has been living the dream since he made his Leeds debut in an 18-16 home loss to Hull on April 6, 2001.
“I am a Cas lad, but my dad’s from Leeds and he was always a die-hard Leeds fan,” Burrow said. “One day I got into rugby, I asked him if I could go to a game and I never looked back. It’s a bit different now because you see Leeds shirts everywhere, but back then I was the only Leeds fan in Castleford!
“To be playing for Leeds at 31 and to be reaching my 400th game, it is something I could never have dreamed about. It is something I am really honoured to do and I’m really proud of.”
Top of Leeds’ appearance list is John Holmes with 625, which is a total unlikely ever to be beaten. Two others players – Fred Webster on 543 and John Atkinson with 518 – are also probably out of reach, but Burrow could pass David Ward, currently fourth on 482 and Alan Smith, who is next in the list on 479.
Burrow is under contract until the end of next season and he said: “As it stands now, I have had little niggling injuries over the years, but I feel as fit as I have ever felt.
“Jamie Peacock has shown you can go on as long as you want if you look after yourself and work hard. I think I can certainly play on for three more years after this one, so I’d like to get close to 500, if selected for all those games.
“That would be an achievement and JP has inspired me to go on and get 500. I love playing here and I’d like to play here as long as I can.”
Burrow’s roll of honour includes six Super League Grand Final wins, plus three World Club Challenge successes and five Challenge Cup runner’s-up medals.
Looking back on his 399 games so far, he said: “I can’t pick a highlight. But certainly one that stands out for me is the first Grand Final win, in 2004. Being a Leeds supporter, apart from the Challenge Cup there had been nothing. Growing up I had supported them and they were always known as big-spenders and under-achievers.
“So the first one meant a lot and the two when I won the Harry Sunderland award [as man of the match] in 2007 and 2011 were extra special for me – but it would be silly to pick one out as a highlight.”
The five Challenge Cup final defeats remain a source of frustration and disappointment for Burrow and something he hopes to put right before he hangs up his boots.
“That’s the big thing that’s evaded us,” he admitted. “There’s no regrets, because I believe things happen for a reason.
“I would not do anything different, but I’d love to win the Challenge Cup. There’s a few years left in this group of men and we are still confident we can do it, hopefully this year.”
A derby at Provident Stadium, Odsal, is the ideal way for Burrow to celebrate his latest landmark.
“If I could have chosen a team for my 400th game it would have been Bradford,” he said. “What a game and what a team for it, I am really happy with that.
“We have had some great games against them over the years and I am sure this one will be just as good.”
Bulls are bottom of the table on minus two points, after having six deducted for entering administration, but Burrow warned: “We don’t have to look at the table to know this will be one of the most intense games of the year.
“Right through my career we’ve had big, intense games against them. That was when they were at the top of the table, but they still perform well against us. We saw that last year, when they got the draw at Headingley. They can turn it on against us and they are fine now, they are sorted and the club is in safe hands, so what better time to kick start their season than against Leeds?”
Burrow is likely to continue at hooker tonight, with specialist No 9 Paul Aiton sidelined through long-term illness. He said: “I am getting to play the full-80, which is what I want to do. But I didn’t want it to be in these circumstances.
“Paulie’s a great bloke and a great player and I just hope he’s okay.”