Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack: Graceful Joel Moon gets set to head off into the sunset

Leeds Rhinos' Joel Moon (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Leeds Rhinos' Joel Moon (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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IT SEEMS crazy that Joel Moon will not only play his last game for Leeds Rhinos tonight but also the final match of his career.

The graceful Australian centre is still only 30 years-old, supremely fit and has plenty of rugby left in him.

Joel Moon scores a try against St Helens in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final in 2015.

Joel Moon scores a try against St Helens in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final in 2015.

However, he has always done his own thing. Just ask any of his Leeds team-mates from the last six seasons.

They have often told how they doubt whether he even knows what he’s going to do next, let alone them.

That can, perhaps, sometimes be problematic, especially when Moon’s playing stand-off, but it is that unpredictable nature that has made him one of Super League’s most exciting players in recent times.

The former Brisbane Bronco announced last month this would be his last year at Headingley but he now says he has decided to hang up his boots altogether.

I am joining the workforce. I’ll do whatever calls me! I feel like I’ve done everything (in rugby league) I wanted to do. My priority now is getting home with my family.

Joel Moon

There is no NRL club waiting, as was rumoured, even if the silky player could quite comfortably return to the higher intensity of Australia’s premier competition.

“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I’m not playing,” said Moon, as he prepared for tonight’s final Qualifiers game against Toronto Wolfpack.

“I am joining the workforce. I’ll do whatever calls me! I feel like I’ve done everything (in rugby league) I wanted to do.

“My priority now is getting home with my family.”

First, however, will be making sure there are no final dramas when Toronto arrive at Headingley this evening.

Leeds head the Qualifiers with five wins from six and know another victory – or even a defeat by fewer than 32 points – will secure their Super League safety for 2019.

It would take an utterly bizarre set of results for them to slip down to fourth and end up in the Million Pound Game but Rhinos know better than to take anything for granted.

Moreover, they want nothing less than victory to send off not only Moon but Jimmy Keinhorst, who is bound for Hull KR, as well.

Having been part of Rhinos’s 2015 treble-winning side and also a Challenge Cup victor in 2014 and Grand Final winner last year, Moon will be remembered as another of the club’s classy overseas signings.

He has scored 80 tries in 167 appearances and admitted: “It will be emotional (on Friday).

“The last month has been emotional. It is going to be a big change, but I have loved every minute of it at Leeds.

“It has been an awesome club. They’ve welcomed me and my family with open arms and I’ve had some great times here.

“When I came here I knew the club was big and they’ve had big success, but in the first year we didn’t win anything.

“I’d never won anything, ever, so I was a bit anxious.

“Looking back now, it has been massive.”

It is the first time Leeds have ever met their Canadian opponents, who sat third in the Qualifiers ahead of this final round.

Big-spending Toronto are intent on reaching Super League and know another victory over top-flight opposition – they got their first against Widnes Vikings last week – would leave them perfectly-placed for an automatic spot.

But Moon, who was bought from Salford City Reds at the end of 2012, insisted: “We want to finish top; that was our goal.

“We need to keep working on things and you don’t want to go into next year on a loss. We want to keep working on stuff.”

Although Leeds have toiled all year and saw five-time Grand Final winning coach Brian McDermott sacked in July, Moon insisted he has taken positives out of his final campaign of professional rugby league.

Furthermore, with Kevin Sinfield as director of rugby and former Australia forward David Furner coming in as head coach in 2019, he believes the club is well-set to rebuild.

“That’s just what Leeds is about; they don’t do anything the easy way,” he maintained, having also helped steer them through the Qualifiers two years ago.

“It is always the hard way, but next year obviously will be brighter. You learn from stuff like this, that’s the good thing about it.

“We have kind of hit rock bottom and there’s only one way up.”