In our new feature, we’re asking you, the fans, plus players, coaches and other rugby league personalities to give us their answers to our set of six questions.
Leeds fan and journalist Rob Conlon is our latest guest on My Set of Six…
Favourite away ground?
I’ve had lots of fun going to Huddersfield over the years but I’m a sucker for the more traditional grounds, so it has to be Wheldon Road, where I’ve experienced good times and bad. It’s full of character, and characters, and there’s always a real buzz when Castleford play Leeds.
I’ve been really spoiled for choice over the years. I fancied myself as a centre (I was terrible) so grew up idolising Keith Senior and latterly really enjoyed watching Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon play. Jamie Peacock was the most stubborn athlete I’ve ever seen and Jamie Jones-Buchanan was like Leeds’ Ringo or Bonehead; never the most talented but completely encapsulated the spirit of that team.
It has to be Danny McGuire though. He was the most naturally gifted player I’ve seen at Leeds, but I still don’t think he got the credit he deserved until he signed off with that performance in the 2017 Grand Final. I can’t think of many players to deliver when it mattered most as much as him. When he came to Headingley for one last time with Hull KR I just watched everything he did since it was the last time I’d get to do so. They gave Leeds a bit of a hiding that day, yet I still couldn’t help but enjoy his masterclass.
Again, I’ve been absolutely spoiled, but it has to be Ryan Hall’s try to win the League Leaders’ Shield at Huddersfield with the last play of the game.
Leeds were out on their feet that whole game and it felt like a repeat of 2014, when we lost every game after winning the Challenge Cup and bombed out of the play-offs in the first round. It really seemed like that was going to be how Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai were going to bow out, which was sickening, but then for some reason Scott Grix let that ball bounce and Hall made up for his worst game in a Leeds shirt!
The scenes afterwards with the helicopter having to turn around on its way to Wigan were some of the most jubilant celebrations I’ve been a part of. In the car journey home my friend and I barely said a word to each other, we were just so emotionally drained. I’ve never felt that exhausted after watching a game of sport.
It has always felt a bit silly to moan too much about Leeds when I’ve been so fortunate to see so much success – although losing six Challenge Cup finals in a row started to take the biscuit – but I was absolutely devastated when England were beaten by New Zealand in the last minute of the 2013 World Cup semi-final.
I remember watching it sat in my student house in Nottingham with people who couldn’t care less about rugby league, just wanting to hug Kevin Sinfield after he missed the tackle on Shaun Johnson that led to the winning try. I still want to hug him to be honest.
Best match you’ve seen (not involving your club)?
That World Cup semi-final is definitely up there, but I’ll go for a happier memory and Great Britain’s win over Australia in Sydney in 2006. It was a really formative moment for me as a young rugby league fan sat watching that with my dad in the morning before I went to go play myself.
There are so many individual stories in that one game. Jamie Peacock described the whole tour to me as being “like a Tarantino movie”, but you could write a film about that one match in itself.
Your wish for the future of rugby league?
I’m not qualified enough to have much of a grand plan to save the game, but I’d love to see people discussing what makes the game so great with the same energy and enthusiasm as they debate some of its negatives. There are lots of people working really hard to do just that, but it feels like you’re never too far from someone who would rather burst that particular bubble. (Yes, I’m a hypocrite for moaning about people moaning.)
People still need to be held to account for the problems the game faces, but I often think back to Leeds losing 25-24 to Castleford at Elland Road in 2018. Even though Leeds had lost, it had been such an exciting game I felt like I’d been thrown in a washing machine for 80 minutes. Afterwards I met a friend in town who was visiting Leeds for the weekend – one of those from uni who isn’t interested in rugby league – and could physically only talk in excited gibberish to him about what I’d just seen. If a sport can make you feel like that, it has to be special. We need to be ambitious in letting people know about it rather than doing ourselves down or getting wrapped up in things that aren’t actually that important.
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