Updated: Saturday, 16th December 2017 @ 8:17am

Super League Grand Final: The Leeds Rhinos house that McGuire built set for last hurrah against Castleford

Super League Grand Final: The Leeds Rhinos house that McGuire built set for last hurrah against Castleford

| By Tom Harle

Short of a pair of horns, Danny McGuire is about as Rhino as they come.

Seven Super League titles in, the Leeds skipper needs no further guarantee of his place in the club’s pantheon of greats. 

But an eighth title from Saturday night’s Grand Final at Old Trafford wouldn’t be a bad way to cap his 22-year relationship with the club.

“I’ve had a great time here, the club has been a massive part of my life for so long,” McGuire said ahead of their all-Yorkshire meeting with Castleford Tigers.

“To be able to finish in the best way possible would be a dream.”

The half-back’s final bow, alongside lifelong team-mate Rob Burrow, would come to dominate the build-up to most finals.

This hasn’t been anything like ‘most’ years of rugby league, though.

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The house that McGuire built comes into a finale as underdogs for the first time in a generation.

Cas hold a remarkable record over Leeds, having beaten them in each of their last eight meetings and comprehensively battering them three times already this season.

The Rhinos went to the Jungle in March and came out battered and bruised, on the end of a 66-10 defeat.

“It was a testing time,” McGuire remembers.

“I think people thought Brian (McDermott, Leeds head coach) was talking rubbish when he came out after that defeat and said we could still win the Grand Final.

“You do question yourself when you’re not playing well and start looking elsewhere.

“We haven’t always played as well as we’d have liked this year but we’ve kept tight with each other.”

Last season was a prolonged nightmare for the Rhinos, who flirted with relegation – unthinkable for a dynasty that has claimed three of the last six titles.

It was a painful season for McGuire personally, as well, missing much of it through an injury which left him unable to lead the team on the field.

“Last year was pretty dreadful for a number of reasons,” he reflects.

“We had a lot of critics and rightly so. I don’t think we performed anywhere near our potential.

“I asked some serious questions of myself, at times I wasn’t sure I’d bother carrying on this year.

“It’s a huge honour to captain Leeds but it’s a big club and there is huge pressure when the team aren’t performing.

“Because of all that, it’s extra special to be in the final this time.”

The previous year in 2015, Old Trafford hosted the farewell of another clutch of Rhinos legends.

A 22-20 defeat of Wigan Warriors, in which McGuire dotted down twice, handed Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai the perfect send-off.

It gave the most prolific try-scorer in the history of Super League great satisfaction to give his mates a fairytale ending.

“It was what dreams were made of for them,” McGuire said.

“I was sat with them having a beer after it and the satisfaction they must have had is something I’d love to feel.

“In the last 20 minutes against Wigan, JP (Peacock) was flying about, he had the determination to pull out that bit more from his body.

“It hasn’t been spoken about much this week but hopefully the lads will give that little bit extra.

“I know I went into 2015 wanting to tip everything in for those guys, so if we can get that little couple of percent for me and Rob it’ll be great.”

Thinking about the future wouldn’t come naturally after well over 400 games of rugby league.

McGuire, though, is set for a winter move to Hull KR who he has agreed to join at the end of the season.

FIRST IN, LAST OUT

The 34-year-old is looking forward to a fresh challenge.

“I never really thought about playing anywhere else apart from Leeds,” McGuire admits.

“There have been a couple of opportunities here and there, I could have gone into union with Saracens a few years back.

“I’ve always been very happy here.                  

“It’s the right time for the club to start looking to the future and for a new opportunity for me.

“A new drive to training, a new coach, new players, all of that excites me.”

When the final whistle is blown and McGuire leaves Headingley for the final time, he can look back on a life spent shaping a culture that looks set to define an era of the sport.

“When I came in there was an expectation to step into that system and continue it,” he said.

“Your standards had to be high right from the age of 16, and that culture is still there.

“As a senior bloke that’s an unwritten part of the job, you’ve got to try and pass on your knowledge and expectations.

“Jack Walker, Jordan Lilley and Ashton Golden are hopefully going to take the club forward for the next ten years.

“Whether it be in the gym or on the field, I’ve been the first in and last out.

“Hopefully the young lads look at that and carry it on.”

Image courtesy of Leeds Rhinos via YouTube, with thanks.