JAMIE PEACOCK would love nothing better than swapping soft-play centres, university studies and evenings in for the ultimate party tonight.
The Leeds Rhinos prop has had to explain to his colleagues what it is like to actually win the Challenge Cup too many times.
They may have a total of 47 final appearances between them this afternoon when they take on Castleford Tigers at Wembley who, in comparison, have only a paltry seven.
But Peacock is the only player among their 17 to have ever actually lifted the famous trophy, ironically both times against Leeds when still a Bradford Bulls forward in 2000 and 2003.
He has endured losses for his current side in 2011 and again the following year but some team-mates – Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Ryan Bailey – have suffered that misery fully five times.
“They’ve been really low key events afterwards,” recalled the ex-England captain, who, along with trying to fire Leeds to that elusive trophy, is also studying for a sports administration masters degree while helping his wife run a play-gym near their home.
“I keep telling the lads that once you’ve won it, the gathering at the hotel afterwards is a great night as everyone is there including those who work behind the scenes.
“The bus journey back is one of the best you’ll ever have. They’re amazing times. I’m hoping to savour all that again this weekend. I’m no night owl these days but, if we win, on Saturday I will be.”
Approaching his 37th birthday, Peacock continues to ignore Father Time by delivering consistent class up front for Leeds.
Tipped by many to win Man of Steel, he sees no reason why he cannot celebrate his 250th game for the Headingley club by ending that 15-year wait for the trophy and his own personal Wembley duck. That is not to say he in any way under-estimates their opponents – Castleford props Andy Lynch and Garreth Carvell are both good friends and former colleagues who he realises will offer nothing for free today – but signifies his underlying drive.
“Everyone has their own different story going into a final,” added Peacock, who, with 458, has made more carries in Super League this term than any other player and is closing in on 3,000m.
“The feelings of excitement and wanting the game to be here now are always there.
“But the motivations for winning each final are different.
“My motivation is it’s my last guaranteed final. I want to go out there and win. My dream is to win at Wembley wearing the blue and amber of Leeds.”
He concedes, though, his attitude has altered since his father Darryl – an inspiration throughout his life – died from cancer almost a year ago.
“It has changed me,” said Peacock. “It can change you for the better to be honest.
“You get a lot more rounded view on life and you become a lot more tolerant of people.
“But you just have that drive to make the most out of your life, that’s the biggest change in me.
“I’d have loved to have won it when my dad was alive but that wasn’t to be.
“When it’s something you’ve not achieved it does gives you that personal drive, though, and it would be fantastic as there’s not many chances left.”
Peacock says he has learned to deal with the pain of defeat at Wembley and says knowing friends like Carvell have prospered, as he did with Warrington two years ago, tempers that hurt.
“As you get older, you become a little bit less fanatical and wiser,” he continued. “If the worst happens and you lose at least they’ll be enjoying it and that sometimes takes the edge off losing.
“Seeing Adrian Morley and Gaz in 2012 took the edge off it for myself. When you’ve got a personal relationship with someone, you can sometimes see past the loss.
“You can see the good of it that comes for others. From Cas, I’ve known Gaz and Andy Lynch the longest, Gaz as a junior at Stanningley when he was a couple of years younger than me – but bigger than everybody else! – and Andy from way back at Bradford, too. It’s frustrating after the finals but you soon put that to bed.
“We’ve improved performance-wise in the last three. In 2010 I think we got hammered by Warrington but we’ve improved in each game we’ve played in.
“In 2012, we weren’t too far off and then you have that shared drive of ‘Right, let’s go on and win the Grand Final.’ That focus comes out of it all.
“It does make it more special this year given it’s Cas. They’ve got a lot of players I know, respect and have a lot of time for. I like Daryl (Powell) too and how much he’s turned the club around.”
Meanwhile, Leeds-born Peacock was on site at Cottonbudz playgym in Rodley this week.
“I’m not exactly hands-on but I get down and keep an eye on things,” he said.
“I suppose it’s like having a team really; you’ve got good people there and if we can work to being a success, business is the same as being in a team.
“It’s about broadening my horizons. If I want to be a success at CEO level, I’ve got to understand more than just rugby business.
“I’ve to understand other business, how other people operate and getting the best out of them.”
However, for 80 minutes today, it’s all about getting the best out of Leeds.