SKIPPER Kevin Sinfield is on the verge of a place in Leeds Rhinos’ history – but he insists passage into the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-finals is more important.
Sinfield will go into tomorrow’s quarter-final at Hull needing just three successful kicks to break Lewis Jones’ long-standing record for goals in a Leeds career.
The captain, who made his debut in 1997, has booted 1,242 goals for Rhinos in 387 appearances, including 27 off the substitutes’ bench.
Jones – rated by many as the club’s greatest-ever player – kicked 1,244 in 385 games from 1952-64, all in the starting line-up in the days before substitutions.
Sinfield is aware of the impending record, which includes drop goals, but he stressed he won’t be thinking about it until after it has happened.
“My focus at the minute is totally on the team and making sure we improve and we are where we need to be come the end of the year,” Sinfield said.
“That is my first focus and the only place I can be. Records are fantastic when you’ve finished. That’s when you look upon them with pride and a smile on your face.
“Lewis did some great things for the club and to be anywhere near him is a massive honour. It is great to be so close, but if we get Sunday right and we perform like we can, stuff like that takes care of itself.
“If we win by a point or two points and I have had nothing to do with it – I have missed all my kicks or whatever, though hopefully that won’t be the case – I will be happy.
“It is about getting the job done. The performance is important because of where we’ve been, but ultimately we need to be in the bag for the next round.
“We all know it’s do or die and we need to be better than we have been.”
The need to improve is a major theme for Sinfield, who kicked four goals from as many attempts in the 20-0 Engage Super League win over Hull eight days ago.
He added: “We made strides last Friday and I think we’ll need to be better going to the KC on Sunday. It is a different competition now and I think they will be smarting a little bit.
“I think we’ll see the best of them and hopefully they will see the best of us.”
Already Leeds’ most successful captain, Sinfield has skippered the team to four Grand Final wins and two World Club Challenge triumphs, but so far the Challenge Cup has eluded him.
He wasn’t selected when Leeds last won the trophy, in 1999 and was dropped for the following year’s final, which they lost to Bradford Bulls.
He collected a loser’s medal in 2003, 2005 and last year, when Rhinos were crushed 30-6 by Warrington Wolves, a result he admits still hurts.
“We haven’t even thought about Wembley,” he said. “Wembley holds some pretty nasty memories for some of us from last year.
“We don’t want to be thinking about that yet – and it would be foolish to start thinking about anything beyond Hull, because we know what they are capable of.
“I felt some things didn’t go their way last week and they made some errors at crucial times, which swung the game in our favour a little bit. They will be better Sunday and hopefully we will. The game is on the BBC and hopefully we can portray rugby league in a good light and do the sport proud by the performance we put in.”
Leeds are on a nine-match winning run against Hull, including
cup victory at KC Stadium in last year’s fourth round.
But Sinfield cautioned: “This game is a one-off. If you look at some of the stars in their team, it is obviously a difficult game.
“It has never been an easy place for us to go. Hopefully we can take some confidence out of last week, but he know we need to be better and hopefully we can be.”
Rhinos’ 17 for tomorrow will be selected from the team on duty last week, plus full-back Brent Webb (calf) and prop Kylie Leuluai (eye), who both missed out due to injury.
Hull will be without skipper Craig Fitzgibbon after he suffered a recurrence of a calf injury during last weekend’s game.
Ewan Dowes, Reece Lyne - who scored four tries for the under-20s against Leeds last week - and Will Sharp are the players included in Hull’s initial 19 who did not play in the previous encounter.
Hull from: Phelps, Whiting, Turner, Yeaman, Briscoe, Horne, Obst, O’Meley, Houghton, Dowes, Manu, Tickle, Westerman, Radford, Washbrook, Lauaki, Moa, Lyne, Sharp.
Leeds Rhinos from: Jones-Bishop, Hardaker, Delaney, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Hauraki, Clarkson, Burrow, Lauitiiti, Kirke, Pitts, Webb, Leuluai.
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).
Kick-off: Sunday, 3.30pm.