The most successful side in the Super League era, no team comes close to Leeds Rhinos in terms of churning out Grand Final victories.
But, wind the clock back to the inaugural summer game season in 1996 and the Rhinos finished third bottom. The West Yorkshire club then finished fifth in 1997 before their first Grand Final experience in 1998 ended in a loss. During Leeds’ 26-year stay in the top-flight, an enviable number of talented players have come and gone, five of whom are listed here.
Who else but Kevin Sinfield? Debuting as a youngster for the Rhinos aged just 16, Sinfield went on to register a remarkable 3,968 points in 521 appearances for Leeds. If the individual achievements aren’t enough then the fact that he became a pivotal figure in the Rhinos’ Golden Era should make you sit up. The playmaker captained Leeds to a remarkable seven Grand Final victories, back-to-back Challenge Cup triumphs, three League Leaders’ Shields and three World Club Challenge successes. Ever the epitome of a professional, Sinfield could arguably be classed as Super League’s greatest ever player.
Hot on the heels of Sinfield is barnstorming forward Jamie Peacock, who joined the club he supported as a boy – Leeds – in 2006. Whilst with the Rhinos, Peacock won six Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and two World Club Challenges and, by 2012, his contribution to the sport had received national attention – he was awarded an MBE that year. Over the course of ten seasons, Peacock registered 26 tries in 272 appearances, one of which included his 500th career appearance in summer 2014.
Playing his entire career with the Rhinos, Rob Burrow won every team accolade available. His trophy cabinet boasted seven Super League titles, two Challenge Cups, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields, as well as two Harry Sunderland trophies for two man-of-the-match displays in the Super League Grand Finals of 2007 and 2011. The latter made Burrow the first player to win the Harry Sunderland trophy twice after he received a unanimous vote from all 37 judges. Pontefract-born Burrow also appeared three times in the Super League Dream Team. Operating as either a half-back or hooker, the ‘pocket-rocket’ made 493 appearances for the West Yorkshire outfit, scoring 198 tries and kicking 157 goals and five drop-goals for a total of 1,111 points. A determined and charismatic leader on the field, Burrow continued to defy his 5’5 stature throughout his career.
When thinking of maverick Super League halfbacks, the name Danny McGuire is often one of the first names to be spoken. Hailing from Leeds, McGuire debuted for the club in 2001. 2004 saw McGuire win the Rugby League Writers’ Player of the Year as well as earn a place in the Super League Dream Team (he would earn another in 2006) after playing a major role in guiding Leeds to their first title win in 32 years with victory over Bradford in the 2004 Grand Final. McGuire would add another seven Grand Final victories to the one won in 2004 as well as three World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups to make him one of the most decorated Super League players ever. His influence in big games has been well documented over the years with the halfback winning the Harry Sunderland trophy for two stellar displays in the 2015 and 2017 Grand Finals. Ever the opportunist, McGuire gave teams nightmares with his stunning back-up play and organisational skills.
Kylie Leuluai moved to England – and more specifically Leeds – ahead of the 2007 season after being a bit-part player in the NRL. Aged 29, the Kiwi enforcer would become one of Leeds’ greatest ever overseas signings. Over the period of nine seasons, the former Manly forward won six Grand Final titles, two World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups to make him the most successful overseas player in Leeds’ history. Leuluai made an impressive 258 appearances in a Rhinos shirt and scored 22 tries. In every season after 2011, the forward announced that he would retire at the end of that year, only to reverse his plans and continue on into the next season. It was 2015 when Kylie finally hung up his boots after revealing that he had played that season with an irregular heartbeat.