In the early 2000s, Leeds Rhinos had a lot of emerging talent that was catching the eye and headed into 2003, they were given the keys to kingdom and told to drive the Rhinos to success.
They went the first 10 games of the season unbeaten, including a Challenge Cup semi-final win over Super League Champions St Helens.
Two young men making headlines at the start of that season were young halfbacks Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire.
However, then coach Daryl Powell initially felt that the pair couldn’t play together with one always coming off the bench with Kevin Sinfield and Andrew Dunemann starting in the halves.
On the day of that semi-final win, it was McGuire and he would prove to be the hero. He would score last in the game to tie it up at 26-all and send the contest to extra time prior to scoring a brilliant try after a Sinfield break to make it 33-26 in extra-time and send Leeds to the final.
Despite this, it was Burrow who was selected for the final against Bradford Bulls in a moment that according to then Leeds teammate Matt Adamson left the halfback “broken.”
“When Danny Mags was left out of the Challenge Cup Final against Bradford, he was devastated. That final training session before we went to Wales, he was broken,” Adamson said of McGuire that week.
“You’ve got to take the focus off yourself and focus on the team and the team’s performance.”
It was a decision that didn’t pay off as Leeds lost 22-20 with Burrow being lost to a head knock whilst Leeds needed someone of his nature, or McGuire’s, to win the game.
However, it would help Powell to start playing them together and would perhaps light the fire under McGuire that would see him score 39 tries in 2004.
Adamson would even try and sign McGuire at Canterbury later down the line:
“I did try and get Danny Mags to Canberra, I think he would have really excelled in the NRL. Many have come to Australia and been highly successful and I think Danny would have been great.
“I tried to get Kallum Watkins to Melbourne Storm and Ryan Bailey. So, I certainly had faith in those guys that they could have competed quite comfortably at that level as could Kevin Sinfield and Mark Calderwood and Chev Walker.”
Also, seeing what McGuire went through in 2003, likely prepared Adamson for 2004 when he was left out of the Grand Final at his favourite stadium on the planet, the home of Manchester United, Old Trafford:
“It was heart breaking. I’ve made it public before that I considered killing myself. I was lucky that I had a beautiful wife and some gorgeous kids and my mum and dad and inlaws back in Australia that got me through it.
“Between the Grand Final, which was a great success and that was most important that we won that but on a personal note it was highly challenging personally.
“My family encouraged me to get on the plane to Australia and take on the final year of my career with the Canberra Raiders and tried to rebuild my own personal mentality.
“The day Tony called me into his office to tell me I wasn’t playing, it was hard to take and to this day I have never quite understood why. But he was the coach and that was his decision and it can’t be changed.
“I was told I was going to play, but in my heart I thought ‘why didn’t I play in the semi-final.’ I guess I went into that week positively but to be honest mate up until the time the team was announced I didn’t expect to be picked because of the week before but there was hope because someone had said to me that he was just trying to put a big of fear through the playing roster and keep everyone on their toes.”
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