FRONT-ROW LEGEND Jamie Peacock intends to revel in the limelight tomorrow, but says he’ll be all business when the first whistle blows.
Peacock will be at the centre of attention when Leeds Rhinos face his former club Bradford Bulls in the prop’s testimonial game at Headingley Carnegie (3pm).
It is chance for fans, fellow players and staff to pay tribute to one of the club’s all-time greats, but – typically – he also regards Leeds’ only full-scale warm-up game as vital preparation for the season’s big kick-off.
Rhinos travel to Hull KR in First Utility Super League round one a fortnight tomorrow and Peacock said a good team performance is the priority, once all the formalities have been completed.
“I am going to make sure I enjoy all the pre-game stuff, but once the game starts, it’s on,” Peacock said.
“It’s a derby game I want to win. The build-up, I am going to enjoy.
“Sometimes you feel awkward being at the centre of attention within a team sport, but this time it is for a good reason – and I am going to make the most of it.”
Tomorrow’s match is also an opportunity for Peacock to thank the Rhinos club and its followers for their backing since he moved to Leeds ahead of the 2006 season.
“It has been huge part of my life for the last 10 years,” said Peacock, who was a childhood Leeds fan.
“It has been more than a job, more than a sporting career. It’s about the people you meet along the way: players, coaches, the people that work at the club.
“There have been some fantastic people here and they are as much part of my good times over the last 10 years as have been the successes.”
There have been plenty of those. Peacock won the Challenge Cup twice, both against Leeds, before joining his home city side. He was also a three-time Grand Final winner and captained Bradford to victory over Rhinos at Old Trafford in his final match for the club.
Since joining Leeds he has won five more Grand Final rings, two World Club titles – to add to two with Bradford – and completed the set when Leeds lifted the Challenge Cup last year.
Man of Steel in 2003, he has been nominated for the game’s most prestigious individual honour three times during his Leeds career. He has been Leeds’ player of the year and fans’ player for the past two seasons and was also rated Rhinos’ top player in 2008.
All that has made him invaluble to the club, but Peacock, 37, has announced that 2015 will be his final season.
Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has already said he will be “surprised” if the former England skipper does hang-up his boots, but Peacock insisted he doesn’t expect the club to offer him a new deal.
“I don’t think they (Leeds) will come to me again,” he stated.
“I think they are trying to lower the age! In the middle of the season I might struggle with how hard the games are. If they were going to ask me to play another season it would be now before we had played a game.”
The target at the moment is to go out on a high, with a ninth Super League champion’s ring.
“That’s the fairytale finish,” Peacock admitted.
“That’s the one all players want. All players at successful clubs would like their last game to be at Old Trafford and winning at Old Trafford.
“I am no different. That is what I would like. It is the team’s goal as well, but there are a lot of other clubs wanting to win it and not just because they are ending their careers; because they are good enough to win it.
“There are some obstacles in our way, but I am sure we will have the determination and drive to give it good shot.”
Peacock already has business interests outside rugby and has worked as a television pundit, as well as studying for qualifications at university.
Of life after rugby, he said: “I like doing the stuff in media and then it’s just about finding a proper job!
“I will be doing my best throughout the year to do that.”
One option is a career in sports management or administration.
“That’s why I went back to university at Leeds Beckett, to get myself as wide a range of skills as possible,” he confirmed.
“It’s no good being involved in sport for 20 years – you need a proven educational background. Hopefully, I am doing that now and it will open some doors for me when I finish playing.”
Despite all his success, Peacock is able to single out one highlight – and a major regret.
He revealed: “My biggest highlight is not playing for Leeds or Bradford, but playing for GB and beating the Aussies in Sydney in 2006 – and captaining the side.
“I was never supposed to make it in a first team, but I got to captain a GB side in Sydney and I scored a try. That’s my favourite moment of all-time in rugby league.”
But he added: “I would have liked to have won an Ashes series for GB. The 2003 series sticks out when they came over with a weakened side.
“We were winning up until 70 minutes in most of the games and then lost. That was as close as we got and I would have loved to have won an Ashes series.”