We look at five things we learned from Leeds Rhinos’ 24-6 victory over Castleford Tigers in the Super League Grand Final this weekend.
And there are lots to take away from the final game of what has been a rollercoaster 2017 Betfred Super League campaign.
MCGUIRE HAS STILL GOT IT
By the time he makes his debut for Hull Kingston Rovers next season, Danny McGuire will be 35-years-old but he showed in the Grand Final that he is as good now as what he was 10 years ago. Maybe, just maybe, even a little bit better now.
It was the Danny McGuire show on Saturday, he bossed the Rhinos around the park and even got stuck in with his defensive work, too. He picked up the Harry Sunderland award and rightly so, because his game management was incredible. He was always talking and his kicking game, bar the one kick that went out on the full, was impressive as well.
CASTLEFORD MISSED HARDAKER
The Tigers broke the news on Thursday that star player Zak Hardaker would be dropped for the Super League Grand Final due to a ‘breach of club rules’ and it was a shock to everyone, probably Hardaker himself, who just the day before tweeted that he couldn’t wait for Saturday.
And with the England international missing, Daryl Powell was forced to make some positional changes to his side. With top try-scoring winger Greg Eden moving to full-back with Jy Hitchcox coming in on the wing. Eden did a good job at the back but the changes didn’t do Castleford any favours, especially at such late notice.
WALKER TO BE FUTURE ENGLAND STAR
Expectedly, all the hype surrounding Leeds’ Grand Final triumph was the fact that veteran duo Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow would be ending their Rhinos career with another Super League winners ring. And, if it wasn’t for McGuire’s heroic display, young full-back Jack Walker would have probably picked up the man of the match award.
The 18-year-old was only making his 12th first team appearance for the Rhinos but you wouldn’t have guessed that with the way he played. He provided a wise head on young shoulders as well as causing the Tigers all sorts of problems throughout the game with his quick bursts and if he continues to progress at such a rapid pace, there is no doubt we will see him in an England shirt within the next five years.
EXPERIENCE WAS A BIG DIFFERENCE
There was a lot of talk in the week whether previous experience in playing in Grand Final would make a difference or not. But it certainly did make a difference – a huge one at that. Leeds had a more than treble the amount of players who had played in a Final before compared to that of Castleford. You could tell the Rhinos were used to playing in huge games as well – they knew how to handle the occasion and their game management was spot on.
Obviously, Castleford were runners-up in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final so there is a little experience there. But moving on from the Grand Final, the Tigers will be much better for having the experience this time around and will have more of an understanding of what it is like if they are to reach Old Trafford again.
WARD CAPABLE OF BECOMING LEEDS CAPTAIN
What a week it has been for Rhinos forward Stevie Ward. He dislocated his shoulder in the semi-final final win over Hull FC and made an extraordinary recovery to play in the Grand Final just nine days later. That just epitomises his passion for the club and you could tell that he wanted to do everything to get the right result for Leeds on Saturday.
He is a Leeds lad through and through and is certainly capable of following in the footsteps of the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Kylie Leuluai, Jamie Peacock and Rob Burrow in becoming a legend of the club. He would also make a good captain too because of his love for the Rhinos and with the way he is on and off the field. He is a great talent and it will be interesting to see if he gets a crack for England at the World Cup.