In depth: Is Danny McGuire the greatest player Super League has seen?

Zach Holland

When you look at the history of Super League there have been players that have cemented themselves as what we can easily call faces of the game, and Danny McGuire is one of them.

You can look at the likes of Kevin Sinfield, James Peacock and James Roby, all of whom have been some of the most memorable and well-known faces in the competition’s near 25-year history. 

However, there is another name we can so easily add to this list and that is McGuire. A player who became one of the most efficient and productive players the game has seen and as the former Leeds and Hull KR man now calls time on his legendary career, we take an in depth look in to one of Super League and British rugby league’s best ever players.

Born in Leeds, McGuire joined hometown club Leeds in 2001 from local side East Leeds ARLFC and after a string of impressive academy performance, he was able to make his first-team debut for the Rhinos against Salford. It might have taken a few teething seasons but by the start of the 2003 season, he was an established player within the starting side.

Before the 2004 season, the ability to win silverware was something that had been missing from Leeds for a long time but there was a newfound sense of optimism at the start of the season, with the Loiners possessing players such as McGuire, Sinfield, Keith Senior and Marcus Bai. They were able to win their first league title since 1972, with McGuire himself putting forth one of his years to remember as he scored an outstanding 38 league tries. From there began one of the most dominant periods in British rugby league history.

After missing out over the next couple of years, the Leeds half-back still continued to work his magic and between 2004-09, he was arguably one of the best the league had to offer. After winning his first Super League crown in 2004, McGuire went on to steer his Rhinos side to even more glory as they claimed three consecutive titles between 2007-09 and over the course of this period, he was one of the most productive and efficient players in the league, making 167 appearances and scoring a staggering 138 tries in the process. 

The dominance would not be over so easily though as McGuire was an integral part of a Leeds squad that had quickly become one of the most feared in the game as they went on to win back-to-back titles again in 2011 and 2012. The playmaker’s try scoring prowess continued to be on show as he scored 32 tries in 47 appearances in the two seasons.

The 2014 season saw McGuire and the Rhinos end their Challenge Cup Final curse after being on the losing side four times throughout his career. McGuire was able to steer his side to a win over Castleford and he scored a try and kicked a drop goal in the 23-10 victory. 

The Super League legend’s career and Leeds’ golden decade came full circle in 2015 as the West Yorkshire side produced one of the best seasons in British rugby league history after becoming the 7th side since 1908 to claim the elusive treble. Again, McGuire proved why he was the club’s ultimate big game player as he won the Harry Sunderland Trophy for the first time thanks to his man of the match performance against Wigan in the Grand Final.  

The curtain seemingly came down on Leeds’ unmitigated dominance in 2017. Despite not been given much chance against a great attacking Castleford side that had already humbled the Rhinos throughout the season, McGuire and Leeds went on to show all their Grand Final experience as the half-back turned back the clock with a vintage display that saw him claim his second Harry Sunderland trophy in a the Grand Final win over the Tigers. 

The 2018 season brought with it his last ever season in a Rhinos jersey, however there is no doubt that both he and a special group of players were able to leave behind a legacy that will not be forgotten amongst the Leeds faithful anytime soon.

By the end of his career McGuire had made a 465 appearances throughout his club career while scoring a staggering 276 tries. A record all the more greater when you take into account that he remains the only man to have scored over 200 Super League tries. When you put that alongside eight Super League wins, two Challenge Cups and three League Leaders’ Shields, it all adds up to being one of the most prolific and accomplished careers in the league’s history.

The Super League era has seen some of the most exceptional talent come through the ranks but maybe no more so than McGuire.

The former Leeds and Hull KR favourite was the definition of a big game player and made it count on the biggest of occasions, with his excellent game management and ability to cut open his opponent’s defensive line and unleash the players around him so effectively. The driving force and catalyst of eight Super League wins and two challenge cups and between 2001-19, he firmly established himself as one of the very best in the game.

A natural born leader who possessed all the skills and tools that made him a largely consistent performer and one that will no doubt be missed from the game for time to come.