Dave Craven: Time to celebrate the milestones racking up at Headingley

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
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ANOTHER week and another player milestone for Brian McDermott to laud.

It is becoming commonplace at Headingley. After marking Jamie Peacock’s 500th career game against Wakefield Trinity last Friday, Thursday’s rout of Bradford Bulls brought up Rob Burrow’s 400th in Leeds Rhinos colours.

Poor old Ian Kirke was kind of forgotten about as, one of the club’s less decorated but still crucial operators, also recently reached his 200th appearance for the club.

One thing is certain; you have to be good at maths, or at least be able to operate a hefty abacus, if you are in anyway involved with Leeds’ statistics.

It is remarkable that so many of their players have spent so long at the same club.

Captain Kevin Sinfield has often stated how most of them could have moved elsewhere for bigger money but the team spirit, enduring culture and pulling power of the Headingley outfit – not to mention consistent capability of winning trophies – has, more often than not, held sway.

Sinfield, who is set to pass 500 games for Leeds next season, obviously leads the way, having debuted way back in 1997.

But so many of his peers are similarly racking up big numbers.

England stars Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan both topped 300 matches last year and international colleagues Ryan Hall and Carl Ablett each chalked up their 200th games for the Loiners earlier this season and, given both have signed long-term contracts and have such durability, will no doubt be motoring towards that next milestone, too.

Kylie Leuluai recently bettered the great Bert Cook’s record of 210 games as Leeds’ longest-serving New Zealander and so it goes on…

Indeed, you could name an entire XIII of current players who have reached at least a century of games for the blue and amber, admittedly, not in any sort of likely winning formation: Sinfield (473), Burrow (400), McGuire (328), Jones-Buchanan (311), Bailey (297), Peacock (235), Leuluai (224), Ablett (205), Hall (202), Kirke (201), Delaney (120), Kallum Watkins (108) and Chris Clarkson (108).

Given the familiarity of some of those names, they are often taken for granted.

Of course, that will not be the case for the Headingley hierarchy and the Leeds faithful but, to the wider game, it can be forgotten just how intrinsic the likes of Sinfield, McGuire and Burrow are to Leeds.

Yet their remarkable achievements are something that should not be allowed to drift out of consciousness.

Let’s be honest, there will probably never be a finer crop of players emerging at the same club at the same time.

One by one they will disappear from the limelight but, in the meantime, whether it be through sheer luck, astute scouting, expert coaching, great development processes, clever culture harnessing or a mix of all the aforementioned, the very fact they exist in unison now is something that should be celebrated.

But when they are gone, the likes of Burrow, Sinfield, Peacock and McGuire will be remembered just like Reilly, Hardisty and Hepworth are at Castleford; Whiteley, Sullivan and Sterling at Hull and Holmes, Jones and Shoebottom at Headingley.