Sinfield stands tall among our Olympic champions

Kevin Sinfield
Kevin Sinfield
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If his stage was in London, Kevin Sinfield would be a superstar.

If he played rugby union, the dependable, indefatigable 32-year-old would be a household name.

As it is, he stars in Leeds, in rugby league heartland, and Sinfield is merely a big fish in a modestly sized pond.

This is by no means meant as an insult. It is a fact, and with each passing year, with each passing Super League Grand Final masterpiece produced by the Leeds Rhinos’ legend, it is a harsh reality that only gets more infuriating for the people who stand on the terraces or watch on television and marvel at this player’s talent and temperament.

It would not be overstating it to say that Sinfield is an icon of his sport. Yet, simultaneously, he is a victim of the off-hand way rugby league is regarded by anyone outside the M62 corridor, and therefore does not get the nationwide recognition he so thoroughly deserves.

It wrankles with fans of rugby league, officials and coaches that a man who steered Leeds to a sixth Super League title in nine years – as captain on each occasion and match-winner this year – is overlooked.

He was not on the original long list of 23 for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, let alone the short list.

But here in the White Rose, the readers of the Yorkshire Post know just how much he means to not only the Rhinos, but the sport he has served so well.

The loose-forward from Oldham was the first recipient of our Sports Star award last year.

And even in the greatest sporting year in living memory, when gold medal after gold medal was won by Yorkshire folk at London 2012, and we even produced a men’s champion at Wimbledon, Sinfield still stands tall in voters’ eyes.

With 26 per cent of the vote, Sinfield has finished second in this year’s Yorkshire Post Sports Star of 2012. And here are some of the reasons why you voted for him.

“Put the Olympics to one side, there is only one truly great player who, week-in, week out and year-in, year-out performs to world- class standard and that is Kevin Sinfield,” posted one website voter.

“A modest, quiet role model for anyone interested in any sport.”

“It’s got to be Sinfield again,” wrote another. “Best captain, best kicker of a rugby ball ever and a tenacious, skilful, inspirational individual.”

On email, voters for Sinfield said: “He never lets us down. It would be a fitting tribute to mark 10 years as captain.”

It is Sinfield’s modesty and his selfless principles that make him such an outstanding candidate for awards such as this.

It is his kicking abilities and his astute leadership that make him such a fine player.

Combine all those attributes and you have a formidable professional and an inspirational figure.

He could have taken the path to fame and fortune as other rugby league players have, such as Chris Ashton and Andy Farrell.

Rugby union would have made him considerably richer and would have given him greater acclaim in a more storied international arena.

But Sinfield loves rugby league, lives for his sport and for donning the Rhinos uniform.

Time and again, when individual accolades come his way, he ducks the question and deflects the attentions of the inquisitor towards his team-mates, without whom, he maintains, he would not have been as successful.

When he won the Yorkshire Post award last year, Sinfield said: “I’m so lucky when you look around the group of players and see the senior ones we have here who have captained elsewhere.

“We’ve got the England captain (Jamie Peacock), had a former Australia captain (Danny Buderus) and some senior lads who have grown up together.

“For me, my job was easy. The young guys coming in knew what was expected of them and you’ve got Brian Mac (McDermott – head coach) at the top of it all who was absolutely fantastic.”

Once again this year, Sinfield led Leeds to the Challenge Cup final, and to Grand Final glory at Old Trafford, despite finishing fifth in the regular season. In the Grand Final itself, he showed the resolve of a heavyweight fighter to pick himself up off the deck and carry his side to victory against Warrington Wolves.

As Yorkshire Post rugby league correspondent Dave Craven wrote: “The Rhinos captain was knocked out after a clash of heads in the 42nd minute when the game was level at 14-14.

“He recovered sufficiently, though, to utilise all of his experience, leadership and metronomic kicking to bring tireless Leeds home and set up another World Club Challenge affair with NRL champions Melbourne Storm early next year.”

Sinfield won the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his performance, but as ever, it was his team-mates who received his praise.

“I’m pleased for all the squad but chuffed to bits for our head coach; he continues to lead from the front,” said the talisman.

There were not only club honours for Sinfield. He also ascended to the captaincy of England in the wake of Jamie Peacock’s retirement, and next year leads his nation at a home World Cup.

Few would put it past Sinfield lifting the World Cup, as well as the World Club and Super League trophies in 2013. Maybe that will garner the national acclaim he so richly deserves.

For now, though, he is your runner-up in the search for Yorkshire’s Sports Star of 2012.

The winner, and recipient of the Jackson Trophies-sponsored award – plus our competition winner – will be announced tomorrow.