Why Kevin Sinfield is Leeds Rhinos' No 1

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 1:36 pm
Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield played together for one last time in Jamie Jones-Buchanan's testimonial game three months ago. Picture by Steve Riding.

With no live sport, why not put together a countdown of Leeds Rugby League/Leeds Rhinos’ all-time top-10 players?

The final list was: 10 Eric Harris, 9 Joe Thompson, 8 John Atkinson, 7 Mick Shoebottom, 6 Jamie Peacock, 5 Garry Schofield, 4 Danny McGuire, 3 Lewis Jones, 2 John Holmes and No 1 Kevin Sinfield.

Why those players and in that particular order?

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Joihn Holmes

Leeds - who became Rhinos at the end of the 1996 season - have always attracted big-name players, so the toughest decision was who to leave out.

Some outstanding individuals did not make the list, for example Ellery Hanley. Undoubtedly brilliant, but he was at his peak during his Wigan days before joining his hometown club, where he did not win a major trophy.

As was Australian Test superstar Danny Buderus, while the likes of Aussies Eric Grothe and Cliff Lyons were world-class and featured for Leeds during the height of their career, but only in short spells.

Rob Burrow won every available honour with Rhinos and it was a difficult decision to omit him. On a personal favourite player list, he would be very near the top, along with Roy Powell and Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who were not flashy, but did all the tough stuff, week-in and week-out.

Garry Schofield.

Burrow would probably have been 11th on this countdown and others in a top-20 may have included - in no particular order - Iestyn Harris, David Ward, Les Dyl, Syd Hynes, Ray Batten, Arthur Clues, Jeff Stevenson, Fred Webster and Hanley.

It’s an all-time list, so some players have been selected on their playing record or reputation and there were no set criteria in terms of number of appearances or trophies won. There was also no deliberate attempt to select a set number from particular generations, though the club’s three outstanding eras - the 1930s, late-1960s/early to mid-70s and 2004-2017 - are all represented.

Eric Harris’ try-scoring records will never be beaten so he was an obvious choice and Joe Thompson, his teammate in the pre-war years, had to be included as an outstanding player, leader and goal kicker.

John Atkinson was a classy winger and brilliant finisher and Mick Shoebottom must be among the most purely talented players to have worn blue and amber, though a sudden career-ending injury meant nobody will ever know how good he could have been.

Jamie Peacock was such an influence on Rhinos - and Super League in general - he could have been higher than sixth. In terms of will to win, there would not be many better.

The success Rhinos have enjoyed in the post-Garry Schofield era - and the fact he won only one Yorkshire Cup during his time at Leeds - probably overshadows how good he was, a magnificent all-round talent who proved his quality when he thrived during off-season stints in the Australian competition. Definitely worthy of the top-five.

Any of the leading four could have been number one. Danny McGuire had two Leeds careers, as a pacy support player and brilliant finisher, then a pivot who led Leeds to one of their most remarkable triumphs.

Lewis Jones will be number one to fans of the 1950s and 60s and he was a giant of the sport at the time, but realistically the top-two was always going to be a contest between John Holmes and Kevin Sinfield.

Holmes had more skill and could do things others only dreamed of, but the perception Sinfield was an exceptional goal kicker and leader, but ordinary a player is nonsense.

Sinfield was all class, a master tactician and brilliant game-manager.

He had a bigger influence on the team, club and sport and won more major trophies, which is why he deserves to be number one.

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