HE IS an undisputed Leeds Rhinos legend and one of the club’s greatest-ever players, but there will be no divided loyalties when Danny McGuire faces his old club tomorrow night.
Leeds’ fourth-highest try scorer and 11th on the club’s list of appearances, McGuire won a joint-record eight championships, including a man-of-the-match display as captain in last October’s Grand Final, which was his last game for the club.
He seemed destined to be a one-club man, but – with Leeds looking to the future by signing former England scrum-half Richie Myler – opted to accept the new challenge of a two-year contract with Hull KR.
The fixture planners set up a rapid reunion with the teams set to square off in Betfred Super League round two, and McGuire insisted: “It will be the first time I’ve played against some of my best mates, at the club I love, but I will be putting friendships aside on the night. I will be wanting to try and win.”
Along with the whole Rhinos squad, McGuire attended a civic reception last month to celebrate last year’s Grand Final triumph.
It has not been easy severing ties and he admitted: “I will always have a soft spot for Leeds.
That bond will never be broken, but for 80 minutes on Thursday night we will be battling each other because everyone is competitive and everyone wants to win.Hull KR’s Danny McGuire
“I have always been a Leeds lad, that is built into me whatever happens. I still see the lads and I go for a coffee with a few of them.
“There will always be that bond there when you’ve played together and gone through things together.
“That bond will never be broken, but for 80 minutes on Thursday night we will be battling each other because everyone is competitive and everyone wants to win.
“I am a Rovers player now and I feel part of that. My aim this year is to do the shirt and the club proud. That’s what I always tried to do at Leeds.
“I feel part of the team, it’s a really good set of lads and a good club. The coaching staff have been brilliant, Tim [Sheens] is fantastic to work with and everybody behind the scenes is good as well.”
Tomorrow’s game is being staged at Elland Road, due to the redevelopment of Emerald Headingley. “When I saw the fixture I was quite pleased it’s at Elland Road,” McGuire conceded.
“I love playing there, it is a great venue and it would have been strange going back to Headingley, though farther down the line I will probably have to.
“I know all the Rovers lads are looking forward to it. They’ve not had an opportunity to play at Elland Road before and it is a fantastic stadium. It is an exciting time and a good challenge.”
McGuire played at Elland Road for Leeds in the 2005, 2008 and 2009 World Club Challenges.
He was among the try scorers against Canterbury Bulldogs 13 years ago, when Leeds won their first world title and still rates that as one of his career highlights.
“Good times,” he said. “That was one of my best games, I really enjoyed that one and I have enjoyed Elland Road every time I’ve played there. I am looking forward to it.”
Rovers’ second stint in Super League got off to a poor start last Friday when they were beaten 28-6 at home by Wakefield Trinity.
Tomorrow’s fixture comes just eight days before Rhinos take on Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in the World Club Challenge, but McGuire is not banking on Leeds having their minds elsewhere.
“As as player, once you get warmed up and you get your kit on you don’t think about anything in the future,” he said.
“You concentrate on your role and what you’ve got to do for your team at that particular time.
“It may catch a few players off guard, but I think if you played them the week after you’d have a chance, after travel to Australia and back in a week. We won’t be looking too deep into it.
“We will do all our preparation and make sure we are ready for the best Leeds team.”