Carl Ablett: Danny McGuire’s been a special player on and off the pitch for Leeds Rhinos

Danny McGuire.
Danny McGuire.
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IT WASN’T difficult choosing something to write about this week, but the problem has been where do I start?

Danny McGuire is a Rhinos – and rugby league – legend and it’s hard to do him just in 750 words.

He is right up there with the best I have played with or against and it’s going to be strange next year without him at the club.

I remember, when I first joined the club as a kid, watching him playing in some academy games and it was obvious straight away he had natural ability.

Rhinos had an outstanding academy team at the time, but he stood out and he was scoring tries for fun.

For someone to come into the first team at such a young age and make the impact he did doesn’t happen very often and he has been at the top of his game throughout his career, which is even rarer.

I think, because he has been so good for so long, Magsy gets taken for granted a bit, but it takes someone special to score as many tries and play in as many games – especially big games – and win as many trophies as he has.

He has been a massive part of the success we’ve had over the past 13 years and while he is a natural rugby league player, he also works very hard at his game.

Even at 34 he very rarely misses training sessions, he still does extras and he is always looking to improve.

You might think at this stage of his career he’d be easing off, but he wants to get better, he is a fierce competitor and he hates losing.

I think last week’s game showed he has still got it. He has an inbuilt ability to read the game and pick his passes and know what to do and when to do it. You can count the number of bad games he has had for Leeds on the fingers of one hand and, most importantly, he is a good bloke as well.

He is great with the young kids at the club and he sets high standards. He has only been captain for two years, but even before that he was a big leader in the team and somebody who guided us around the field.

When he is not playing we really miss him. Last year showed that. There’s been a few rumours for the last few weeks, but we only found out he is leaving this week.

He didn’t get chance to tell us at Monday’s team meeting, but he messaged everybody on WhatsApp and broke the news then.

I don’t know the full background, but obviously Richie Myler is coming in next year and Jordan Lilley has a new contract and the club are looking to the future.

Magsy had a contract for 2018 so it would have been easy for him to see that out and maybe take a bit of a backseat role in the team, but he is not like that.

He wants to be playing every week and doing the best he can and leading from the front.

It is inevitable that even the very best players retire or move on at some stage, but the big thing for us now is to make sure he goes out on a high.

Hopefully he gets the chance to lift a trophy as captain, which I know would mean the world to him.

It is going to be emotional when he plays his last game. He is a Leeds lad, he is passionate about the club and it will be strange seeing him playing in a different shirt, but he will be a fantastic signing for whatever team he goes to.

It has been a very sad few weeks in rugby league. Everyone in the game is still getting over the sad death of Culcheth Eagles player Adam Cooper and there has been another awful tragedy this week with the passing of Evan Hawksworth, who was injured playing for Stanley Rangers under-14s against Batley Boys last Sunday.

He was only 14 and it is hard to put something like that into words, but I know the whole sport will rally round, like it always does.

On behalf of all the Rhinos players I’d like to send heartfelt sympathy to Evan’s family and friends and everyone at both clubs.