DANNY McGUIRE admits he loves being a senior figure in the Leeds Rhinos ranks.
It seems incredulous for those who remember him as the fresh-faced youngster who scored the try that set up Leeds’ first Super League title win in 2004 but the half-back actually turned 32 on Saturday.
With almost 350 games now under his belt for Rhinos, McGuire is showing no signs of slowing up.
Initially renowned for his eye for the break, acceleration and poaching instinct, the ex-England star is now a more rounded playmaker who continues to be integral to the Blue and Amber cause.
Currently bouncing in pre-season training, he admits ‘not being fussed’ at seeing another birthday pass by or worried about losing any of his initial pace.
“The last few years I’ve taken more responsibility on within the team anyway and I don’t think age really dictates that,” said the six-time Grand Final winner and Super League’s record try-scorer.
“The position I play I’m more in charge and bossing people around regardless, telling them what to do.
“I suppose when you are one of the senior guys you have to set the standards for the younger lads and make sure they strive to get to the levels
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us boys have been striving and playing at for a few years now.
“Hopefully the younger lads take that as a bit of a challenge and try and compete.
“It’s our job and responsibility to set the standards for the young guys and hopefully they’ll meet that and then when we’re not here in a few years’ time they’ll carry on those standards as well.
“If I could go back to having 21 year-old legs and knowing what I know now with the brain, it’d be a perfect combination but that’s just the way it is.
“I’ve had a few injuries so I’m probably not as sharp and as quick as I was when I was 21 but that’s what happens with age and time.
“You have to adapt your game and I do enjoy the role now as it is.
“I was probably a little bit more selfish when I was younger but I enjoy trying to create things for other people now as well.
“I still like getting over the whitewash every now and then but being less selfish, too.”
Certainly McGuire was one of Leeds’ best players in 2014, proving a consistent force often alongside long-time half-back partner Kevin Sinfield and helping his hometown club to that previously elusive Challenge Cup final success.
However, he knows he will face increasingly stiff competition for Liam Sutcliffe in 2015, the exciting 20-year-old who was shortlisted for Super League’s Young Player of the Year this term.
“I think Sutty will challenge more again,” said McGuire.
“He played a lot of games anyway last year. It’s very early in the season. We’ve not done much team stuff – a lot of guys have had operations and are away – but I think Mac (Brian McDermott) will pick who he thinks is best for the team.
“It keeps you on your toes knowing you have to fight for your position. Hopefully I’m playing well enough at six or seven and do a good enough job for the team.
“I do still feel I’ve got plenty left in me and was happy with how things went last term.
“I’m excited for this season, too. I really want to have a good year.”
Leeds’ campaign unusually ended early last season with a first-round play-off exit at home to Catalan Dragons.
McGuire added: “Obviously, we had a good run in the Challenge Cup and were disappointed the way the league finished.
“But, personally, the last few years has seen my game change a lot.
“I feel like I am an important member of the team and have a big role in the side.
“I’m probably not doing the fancy things – the 100m tries – anymore but I think my all-around game working with team-mates around me has improved.”