FOR someone who started the season down Leeds Rhinos’ pecking order, Jimmy Keinhorst is certainly finishing in style given he is now a Grand Final winner preparing to face the mighty Kiwis.
The converted second-row is one of many players who have delayed their holidays in order to take on Four Nations holders New Zealand at a historic Headingley meeting on Friday.
Ordinarily, what follows Super League success at Old Trafford is the traditional ‘Mad Monday’ celebrations, some sore heads and then a few weeks off.
However, given the honour of being the first club side to face a touring national side since the Kiwis battled Hull FC and St Helens in 2002, Leeds are doing it differently.
“It is a bit strange,” admitted Keinhorst, who scored six tries in 16 games for the West Yorkshire club this term, having successfully switched from centre to the pack during a mini-injury crisis.
“It doesn’t happen too often, carrying on (training) like this, when you’re not involved in the international fixtures.
“It is unusual for me. When you are not considered in those international teams you’re thinking that it (facing a national side) is never going to happen.
“But we have the opportunity there now and it will be a great prospect to play against some of the world’s best.
“I’m looking forward to it – taking on New Zealand, the No 1 ranked team in the world.
“We had a few days off but we’ll have a good week’s training now and then rock up Friday for another game.”
Headingley, celebrating its 125th anniversary, is expected to be sold-out as the tourists arrive for their solitary warm-up game ahead of the Test series with England.
The occasion also acts as a final farewell for departing Leeds trio Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai.
However, there are a couple of guest appearances from former Rhinos second-row Ali Lauitiiti, the Kiwi who won four titles with the club, and ex-England captain Adrian Morley, who made his debut for Leeds in 1995, winning the Challenge Cup four years later before embarking on a stellar career with Sydney Roosters in 2001.
Keinhorst, 25, said: “I played with Ali at Wakefield and it’ll be great to play with him again.
“Obviously I remember watching Moz a bit when he was at Leeds. I was a Leeds fan and must have only been nine or 10 years old. It will be a cool experience to do that on Friday. He’s been great for the sport from what he did over here and Australia as well.
“It’ll be a great way for him to bow out here at Leeds again.”
It will also be a great way for Keinhorst to round off his season.
Having suffered the disappointment of being 18th man for the Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR at Wembley, he was on the bench to help Leeds secure the treble with that epic Grand Final success over Wigan Warriors.
“Regardless of what happened earlier it was just awesome to be a part of that night,” he said.
“To be part of that treble-winning team – getting that final piece and sending Kylie, JP and Kev out on the best possible note – it was an amazing night to be a part of and it will be remembered for a long time to come.”