Tonight, 27 years since signing for the club and 24 years since he made his debut as a 16-year-old against Sheffield, Kevin Sinfield’s association with Leeds Rhinos comes to an end.
Super League’s most successful captain is regarded as some as the finest ever player to pull on the Blue and Amber. He led the club to 15 major honours in 13 years as skipper whilst claiming personal accolades such as becoming the club’s all-time leading points scorer.
He retired from rugby league in 2015 as a treble winner but returned to the Rhinos in 2018 to help the club after a difficult few years. He’s done exactly that leading Leeds to Challenge Cup success last season. Having secured the signings of Aidan Sezer and James Bentley ahead of 2022, he’s now headed to Leicester Tigers. But he’ll leave a lasting imprint on the club and the sport. But what are his six greatest moments? Today we’re counting them down.
6. Weathering the storm
Very few players can claim to have outfoxed Melbourne Storm’s holy trinity in their prime, but Sinfield did just that in 2008 with a Man of the Match performance in the World Club Challenge. The Leeds skipper kicked Melbourne to pieces at Elland Road whilst scoring seven of Leeds’ eleven points including the drop goal that settled the contest in Leeds’ favour.
5. Picking Wigan apart in 2012
In similar fashion, Sinfield came up with a Man of the Match display at the DW Stadium to defy the odds and take fifth placed Leeds to Old Trafford. Without the dynamic Danny McGuire, many feared Leeds wouldn’t be able to score the points to defeat Wigan, however Sinfield notched nine points as he slowly picked the Warriors apart prompting Brian Carney to come up the iconic line “it’s going to be death by a thousand cuts tonight.” It certainly was especially when Sinfield’s bomb forced Wigan into conceding a penalty which he then converted to give Leeds a 13-12 win. The following week he claimed the Harry Sunderland Award for a Man of the Match display at Old Trafford before being awarded the Golden Boot as the world’s best player in 2012.
4. The Grand Final winning tackle
This should be considered the greatest and most important tackle in Super League history. In the Grand Final, as Leeds pursued a historic third Super League title in a row, the Rhinos led 11-10 with just over 10 minutes to go when rivals St Helens spun the ball out wide to Kyle Eastmond. The centre went down the wing to score or so it seemed. A superb diving tackle from Sinfield denied Eastmond and gave the Rhinos the trophy. He’d later be named Man of the Match and was handed the Harry Sunderland Award.
3. “The hero of Headingley”
In one of the greatest games of all-time, Leeds took on Grand Final favourites Warrington in the semi-final. Everyone had written the Rhinos off but an amazing performance saw them level with the Wolves going into the dying minutes. A penalty gave Leeds the chance to win the game if Sinfield could notch the two points from a difficult position. He stepped up to send Leeds to an unlikely Grand Final prompting Eddie Hemmings to name him “the hero of Headingley.” A week later he secured Grand Final glory before bringing the house down with a passionate speech about the character of his side.
2. The 40/20 that changed history
In his final game at Headingley, Sinfield’s Leeds side were behind the eight-ball against St Helens as the dream of the treble slowly slipped away. Then Sinfield stepped out of dummy half to kick a 40/20 which changed the momentum of the game. A few minutes later he was converting Ryan Hall’s try to give the Rhinos a 14-13 lead. Leeds went onto win the game and the following week’s Grand Final.
1. Everything he’s done for Rob Burrow
Kevin Sinfield is Super League’s greatest ever captain not just because he brought the best out of his players but because he was a brother to them. Even now he still provides that same level of support to his former teammates. The best example would be the kindness he’s shown to Rob Burrow during his plight with MND. Sinfield ran seven marathons in seven days to raise money for Burrow and even played one final game at Headingley for his old mate. A leader in every sense of the word, he’s led by example in Burrow’s campaign against the awful disease.