JAMIE PEACOCK believes former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Kevin Sinfield’s appearance on BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) will be the greatest advert for rugby league yet.
Ex-Rhinos and England captain Sinfield is firmly in the running to win – rated third favourite behind Andy Murray and Jessica Ennis-Hill – having become the first-ever rugby league player to even be shortlisted for the prestigious prize.
He gained the backing of two sporting greats yesterday when both Jonny Wilkinson, who won the award in 2003 having helped England’s rugby union side to World Cup victory, and Manchester United legend Paul Scholes each said they would be voting for him.
There are few people who know Sinfield better than Peacock, though, his former Leeds and international team-mate of 10 years who was alongside him again in this season’s amazing treble success.
On Sinfield’s SPOTY nomination, the new Hull KR head of rugby said: “It’s huge and so big for the game.
“Kev hit the nail on the head himself when he said this is about the sport and, instead of having four seconds on the BBC, we might have four minutes.
“There’s no form of marketing or communication that the RFL or clubs can do that is as powerful as being on SPOTY for as long as we’re doing (Sunday).
“Having someone who the game has produced and has the values Kev has as a person, I think it’s going to be the greatest advert for the game we could possibly have.
“I’m delighted for him and just want the game to unite behind him.
“I think there is a feeling of that – the bigger overall picture – but for what he has given the game he definitely deserves to be on there.”
Wilkinson, a renowned kicker just like Sinfield but with global fame having played union, is a huge fan of the player who has recently switched codes to play for Yorkshire Carnegie.
He revealed: “Kev’s the kind of guy you want sat next to you in the changing room.
“He makes the afternoon ahead seem a whole lot better and makes you feel there’s a reason to go out there and show what I can do because there’s a guy sat next to me that is going to bring it every time.
“To go out there in your own way and to do it quietly and lead in a respectful manner with great values over and over again.... not only is that a great sportsman, that’s a great person and for me that’s what this award represents.”
Similarly, Scholes, the former England midfielder, has revealed his respect for Sinfield ahead of tomorrow’s show in Belfast when the SPOTY winner will be decided by a public vote.
Despite being a fan of Wigan – who Leeds defeated in this season’s Grand Final – Scholes remains a true admirer of the 35-year-old and can’t think of a more deserving recipient.
“All his achievements over the years have been unbelievable,” he said.
“Leading point scorer, leading goal scorer, England’s leading point scorer and then to finish his final year being leading point scorer again and win the three major trophies was an unbelievable achievement.
“I can’t think of any one player who deserves it more than him for what he’s done in his last year.”