Sinfield is crowned Yorkshire’s champion after leading Rhinos to Grand Final glory

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Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has been named the Yorkshire Post Sports Performer of the Year 2011.

The victorious stand-off, who led his club to an unprecedented fifth Super League Grand Final win this year, secured the inaugural award after being voted a clear winner by readers.

Only Leeds-born triathlon world champion Alistair Brownlee came close to denying Sinfield the trophy as he rounded off an eventful 12 months.

Struggling Rhinos were on the ropes midway through the season and in danger of actually slipping out of the top eight.

But, with the indefatigable Sinfield’s guidance and leadership, they finished supremely and became the first side to reach Old Trafford from as low as fifth place.

With play-off successes against Hull FC, Huddersfield and an outstanding victory at minor premiers Warrington Wolves – where Sinfield slotted a crucial last-gasp penalty – they set up a Grand Final meeting with St Helens and secured a fourth title in five years against all odds.

“I’m delighted to win this award and thank you to everyone who voted for me,” said Sinfield.

“There’s some terrific sports performers throughout Yorkshire, so it really is a great honour, but it feels very weird winning an individual award when I’m part of a team.

“I suppose this is in recognition for the whole club really and what we managed to do at the back end of the year. It wasn’t a vintage year by any stretch of the imagination.

“But for us to come through in the end like we did is testimony to the character in the group and I wouldn’t be winning this award without any of those.

“It’s been a memorable 12 months and we’re all looking forward to 2012, pushing further again.”

Although born in Oldham, Sinfield has become an honorary Yorkshireman given his incredible service to the famous Headingley club.

He debuted as a 16-year-old in 1997, has gone on to become Leeds’s most successful captain and is due to make his 400th appearance when they start the defence of their title against Hull KR on February 3.

During 2011, he played in all 36 Rhinos matches, scoring in each and missing less than 30 minutes of action as he led from the front.

In July, Sinfield beat the legendary Lewis Jones’s 47-year record as the top goalscorer in the club’s history, eclipsing the Welshman’s 1,244.

Soon after, he became Super League’s greatest points scorer when he eased past former Wigan star Andy Farrell’s record.

His nerveless extra-time penalty against Castleford Tigers also sent Rhinos to a Challenge Cup final where they fell narrowly to Wigan Warriors at Wembley.

After those Old Trafford heroics, ever-present Sinfield, 31, then proved instrumental in helping England reach the Gillette Four Nations final against Australia.

Sinfield profile: Page 23.