In a new series, we’re going to look back at the best rivalries in Super League and select a combined XIII from each team based on their best players from the summer era.
We start with the Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls, a fierce West Yorkshire rivalry which has brought about some of the most memorable games and moments in the competition’s history.
1. Iestyn Harris
The Welsh Wizard Iestyn Harris takes the full-back sport having played over 100 games for both teams. He made his name as the talismanic skipper for the Rhinos, guiding them to the inaugural Grand Final in 1998 and a first Challenge Cup in 21 years. The 98 Man of Steel would then take rugby union by storm before controversially returning to league and signing for Bradford instead of Leeds. He would take up a role in the halves for the Bulls and guide them to back-to-back Grand Finals, winning the latter in 2005.
2. Lesley Vainikolo
The volcano was a brute of a winger and often impossible to stop. He was part of the Bulls impressive treble-winning side of 2003 before featuring in another Grand Final win two years later where he scored a vital try. Vainikolo won’t just be remembered for the silverware he won at Odsal, with his almost unrivalled try-scoring record and ability to produce big moments at crucial times making him arguably the best winger Super League has seen.
3. Shontayne Hape
Like his wing partner Vainikolo, Hape is one of few to score in consecutive Grand Finals as he formed a deadly left-side partnership with the volcano. The elusive centre scored and created tries for fun and possessed the perfect balance of speed, strength and skill to become one of Bradford’s most dangerous players throughout the noughties.
4. Keith Senior
Shifting from Bradford’s famous left edge to that of the Rhinos, Keith Senior becomes the first standalone Leeds player in this team. The long-serving Great Britain international arrived at Headingley at the turn of the century and became a household name in blue and amber. His 199 Super League tries is still joint second on the all-time list and his four Grand Final wins from 2004-2009 leaves him in esteemed company.
5. Ryan Hall
In the same vain as Hape and Vainikolo, Senior and Hall formed a formidable partnership down the Leeds left. However, even after Senior’s retirement in 2011, Hall kept scoring tries for fun. From 2009-2012 he scored 30 or more tries in four consecutive seasons, while also becoming prolific at international level. Hall also made a habit of scoring in Grand Finals (three) and produced many game-changing moments, including his last-gasp effort against Huddersfield in 2015.
6. Danny McGuire
Super League’s all-time leading try-scorer Danny McGuire ended Leeds’ 32-year wait for a Championship title with the clinching score against the Bulls back in 2004. That would be the first of many memorable moments for the two-time Harry Sunderland winner, who fast became a Grand Final specialist. McGuire scored braces in three Grand Finals and won eight (one as captain) in a trophy-laden career.
7. Rob Burrow
Edging out Paul Deacon at scrum-half is super Robbie Burrow. Both he and McGuire began their Leeds careers in the same year (2001) and they would enjoy 18 years of success together, ending in their eighth Super League title in 2017. Burrow’s direct and electrifying style was a key factor in turning the tide of the Leeds-Bradford rivalry, helping the Rhinos become the dominant force in Super League.
8. Stuart Fielden
Fielden was front and middle of Bradford’s success and arguably the best prop in the world during the Bulls glory years. He was part of all three of the club’s Grand Final wins and his rivalry with Leeds front-rower Barrie McDermott was something to behold. The aggression and dominance he held in the majority of his personal duels made him the most feared forward in Super League for a sustained period.
9. Jimmy Lowes
A star for both clubs, the Leeds faithful must have been kicking themselves when Lowes was allowed to move to Bradford in 1996. A period of success for player and club followed as he quickly became the best hooker in the country, helping the Bulls claim three Super League titles along the way. He bowed out in the best possible style in 2003 as Bradford won the treble.
10. Jamie Peacock
Peacock was part of treble-winning teams at both clubs and remains Super League’s most successful ever player. Between 1998 and 2005 the fearless forward won 10 major trophies for the Bulls, before joining rivals Leeds and winning 12 more titles between 2006 and 2015. Despite the rivalry, Peacock is a legend of both clubs and his success is unlikely to ever be repeated. A true great of the sport.
11. Jamie Langley
This selection might raise a few eyebrows but Jamie Langley is one of the most underrated players to have played in Super League. He made over 250 appearances for the Bulls between 2002 and 2013, forcing his way into a well-established team. Langley was a driving force in the back-row and won multiple honours, reaching his peak in 2005 when he played in the Grand Final victory over Leeds.
12. Adrian Morley
Another player who played for both clubs is Adrian Morley. ‘Moz’ started his career at Leeds and spent five years at Headingley, becoming an impressive attacking weapon in the back-row. His form earned him a move to the NRL where he became one of the most feared forwards in the world. Before he returned to Super League on a full-time basis in 2007, he joined Bradford on loan for the end of the 2005 season and played in the Grand Final triumph against the Rhinos.
13. Kevin Sinfield
No surprises here as Super League’s most successful captain and Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield takes up the loose-forward position. His leadership, influence and class was a big part of why Leeds dominated for a decade, with ‘Sir Kev’ lifting a record seven Super League trophies – the first in 2004 when Bradford were toppled at Old Trafford. Sinfield was the perfect role model, a magician with the boot and is probably the greatest player to ever pull on a Leeds Rhinos shirt.