IT WILL be the end of an era, but captain Danny McGuire says he is treating Leeds Rhinos’ Betfred Super League semi-final against Hull on Friday as just another game.
It will be his final match as a Leeds player at Headingley – and his Rhinos career will be over if they lose. The stakes are sky high, but McGuire insisted: “I will approach it as I have done all my career. It is another game for me, although there’s more at stake and it will be my last game for Leeds at Headingley. It is going to be strange, but I will deal with it. I will enjoy this week and give it all when I get out there.”
McGuire, who will join Hull KR next season, produced an outstanding two-try performance in last Friday’s 36-12 win at Huddersfield Giants and he added: “I feel all right, my body feels good and I am enjoying it. I have really enjoyed this year.
“I knew half way through it was going to be my last year for Leeds and I’ve tried to give as much as possible, as I have always done – I’ve always tried to give my best whenever I’ve put the jersey on. That’s what I’ll be trying to do in the next week or two.”
Rhinos have been guaranteed second place in the table for more than two weeks and McGuire has been encouraged by the professional manner in which they have handled effectively meaningless games. He said: “That has been the good thing, the commitment has been good all year. Every time we’ve crossed that whitewash, whoever’s in the 17 has committed to the cause.
“That’s one thing I have really enjoyed this year, everybody’s work ethic. We haven’t always got the results we’d like, but I think everybody has always been really committed to the cause. In the last two games, when there wasn’t really much at stake, everybody has performed really well.”
I knew half way through it was going to be my last year for Leeds and I’ve tried to give as much as possible, as I have always done – I’ve always tried to give my best whenever I’ve put the jersey on. That’s what I’ll be trying to do in the next week or two.Danny McGuire
McGuire said Rhinos won’t change anything this week. He stressed: “It’s the same again, we have to make sure our preparation is good. We know we are playing Hull now and we have met each other a few times. We have a reasonable record against them recently, but they beat us in the [Ladbrokes Challenge Cup] semi’.
“They have been the best team for the past two years in knockout games, they have got a big pack and they work on the back of [Marc] Sneyd and his kicking game. We will have to front up and meet them head on, especially in the middle. We will just do what we do and prepare well. You are 80 minutes away from the biggest stage so everybody will be ready for it and up for it.”
McGuire’s last game for Leeds could be the Grand Final, against either Castleford Tigers or St Helens who meet at the Jungle on Thursday.
“It would be really nice to get there, but the Hull boys will be thinking exactly the same,” McGuire said. “It is going to be about performance, but there are other factors – Gaz [Ellis, Hull’s captain] is retiring as well, I am moving on and Rob [Burrow] is retiring. There’s a lot of things people are going to want to play for so it makes it an interesting game.”
Last Friday was McGuire’s first brace of tries since the 2015 Grand Final win over Wigan Warriors. He said: “It was really good, I was really pleased – more with the effort from anybody really. We scored a few nice tries. The conditions were tough and there was probably a bit too much dropped ball from both teams, but defensively we were very good again.
“That will stand us in good stead for the semi’, because you need to be really good defensively to win these big games.”
Rhinos have conceded only 22 points in their last five halves of rugby, scoring 98.
“We are promoting the ball, offloading and pushing up and we’re playing for each other,” McGuire reflected.
“We are in a reasonable place, we are happy. We know it’s going to be tough this week, but we will go forward full of confidence and it is going to be an exciting week.”