EX-ENGLAND captain Jamie Peacock has spoken of his pride at reaching the considerable milestone of 500 career games.
The Leeds Rhinos prop achieves that feat against Wakefield Trinity tonight – ironically the same opponents he made his Super League debut against with Bradford Bulls in 1999.
He might have thought he’d seen it all in a glittering and varied career but there will be a new and surreal experience for the player at Headingley; his Super League club have marked it JP Day in recognition of the rare feat and handed out thousands of Peacock masks to supporters.
“It’ll be like the film Being John Malkovich,” he smiled. “It’s probably a little embarrassing and weird but it’ll be very humbling. When you first set out playing, playing 500 games is never in your remit. You just want to make your debut, try to get into the 17-man squad, then the first 13 and then it kind of progresses. All of a sudden, 16 years later you’re getting towards 500 games. I always remember Karl Harrison, one of our coaches at Bradford, saying ‘I played 502 games and only knocked the ball on twice.’ It’s all he ever used to say as part of his coaching.
“I used to think that was a hell of a lot of games and now 13 years later I’m nearly there now too. I’m pleased to make the milestone.”
Peacock’s total could have been so many more given he did not make his Super League debut until relatively late at the age of 21, a stint out in Australia playing for University of Wollongong proving seminal in his development.
“It was key,” he recalled. “It was really good to work with Greg Mackey. He was our coach – the ex-Warrington (and Hull) scrum-half – and, although we didn’t always see eye to eye, I can see now he taught me a lot. I signed as a professional but I didn’t really know what a professional rugby league player was. I’d been taught how to catch, pass and tackle like a rugby player, but not what the mind-set was.
“Looking back now, I got that from him, the things he tried putting over. I didn’t quite get it then, but eventually it sunk in.”
That is something of an understatement; Peacock, now 36, has gone on to win a record eight Grand Finals, lifted the Challenge Cup three times, the World Club Challenge on four occasions, the coveted Man of Steel in 2003, led his country with distinction and earned an MBE for his undoubted services to the sport.