In-depth: Keith Senior

HULL, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Keith Senior of Leeds who is playing his 500th game today during the engage Super League match between Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos on July 4, 2009 in Hull, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

In celebration of his 42nd birthday we focus on the career of one British rugby league’s greatest centres, Keith Senior….

Looking at some of the great centres that have graced rugby league, we could easily suggest the likes of Jamie Lyon, Gary Connolly, Paul Newlove maybe even Steve Renouf but there is no one more coveted in the Super League era than that of Keith Senior in that position.

By the end of his career in 2011, the former Rhinos man proved and showcased that his longevity would know no bounds as he would perform at consistently high level all the way to the end.

Senior’s stellar and accomplished career began with the Sheffield Eagles, after transferring over from the Huddersfield YMCA rugby union team in 1994.

After two years in to a fairly quiet start to his rugby league career, Senior seemingly burst onto the scene in 1996 and a pivotal point in rugby league’s history as we saw the birth of Super League. His breakthrough year saw Senior finish the first ever Super League as the Eagles top try scorer with 17 and a tally that would just be start.

By 1998, Senior and the Eagles certainly put the sport of rugby league at notice producing one of the biggest shocks in the sports history, claiming the 1998 Challenge Cup by defeating a dominant and formidable Wigan side 17-8 and at the same time inserting themselves into rugby league folklore. As he vastly became one of Super Leagues most standout performers, his first international start for Great Britain was not far behind as he made the starting line-up against New Zealand in 1998.

The Great Britain international’s key performances in a six-season spell with the South Yorkshire side eventually saw Leeds Rhinos stand up and take notice, signing Senior by the end of the 1999 Super League season.

In first his full season as a Rhinos player he showed all the traits that would make him a star of the game, making nothing short of an impactful debut season finishing as the club’s top try scorer with 17. After only three seasons with the West Yorkshire side, Senior continued to showcase the mentality of what made him one of Super League’s most prolific scorers, scoring 57 tries in 99 appearances.

Coming into the 2004 season, the Rhinos had gone without a league title since 1972 but that 32-year wait came to an end as the club went on to beat arch rivals Bradford Bulls in the Grand Final 16-8, seeing Senior make 30 appearances for the season along with adding to his ever growing try tally once gain with 13. The durability and evergreen nature was for all to see as by the seasons end, Senior had only missed 14 games since the start of Super League and playing the most Super League rounds by a player at the time, playing in 223 games out of a possible 237.

By 2005, a seemingly increasing formidable Rhinos side brought with it another record to add to Senior’s growing list of achievements as he became the 20th player in the clubs storied history to score 100 tries throughout their career, thanks in large to one of his best seasons to date. After claiming the World Club Challenge in epic fashion against NRL premiers, Canterbury Bulldogs, Senior would go on to display his phenomenal try scoring exploits claiming 24 tries in just 23 appearances.

An incredible spell between 2007 and 2009 saw Senior become an integral part of Leeds’ three consecutive Super League winning seasons, making his fourth Super League Dream Team appearance in 2009.

The 2009 season even brought with it something extra special for the former Rhinos and Great Britain star as Arriva Yorkshire had asked the local members of the public who they felt were deserving of being considered the best 13 players from West Yorkshire to have played in rugby league. Senior’s name making the final 13 alongside some of the greatest to play the sport in Neil Fox and Roger Millward.

Between 2004 and 2011 along with the likes of Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Senior claimed four Super League titles and two World Club Challenges to add to his 1998 Challenge Cup win.

By his retirement in 2011, Senior had made over 400 appearances for both Sheffield and Leeds, scoring in excess of 200 career tries along with 42 appearances for both Great Britain and England to go with 14 tries.

In a career that spanned 17 illustrious years, Senior certainly made the centre position one in his own, becoming not just one of the most coveted in the game but one of the most prolific.

His 199 Super League tries puts him in the top five Super League top try scorers list, with the likes of Danny McGuire and Paul Wellens.

It’s easy to suggest that Senior was great just because of his ability to consistently get over the try line. However, there was always more to it than that with Senior. He was a marmite player for some, you either loathed or loved but what cannot be questioned is that he displayed a certain type of charisma along with a presence and sense of leadership that shone through every time he stepped on a pitch.

If we add this along with his lethal combination of not just pace and a knack for scoring tries but a combo of strength, grit and agility, it would make him one of the highest regarded centres in rugby league.

A unique character on and off the field whose contributions at not just club level but on the international stage will live long in the memory of rugby league.

Honours and achievements:

Super League x4- 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009
Challenge Cup x1- 1998
World Club Challenge x2- 2005 and 2008
Super League Dream x5- 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010

Happy Birthday Keith…

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