Wakefield Wildcats v Leeds Rhinos: Rob Burrow’s passion remains strong despite reduced role

IMPACT PLAYER: Rob Burrow might be a regular substitute now but with a raft of senior players leaving at the end of the season, his importance could rise again. Picture: Steve Riding.
IMPACT PLAYER: Rob Burrow might be a regular substitute now but with a raft of senior players leaving at the end of the season, his importance could rise again. Picture: Steve Riding.
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IT would have been understandable if Rob Burrow wanted to spend the rest of his career away from Leeds Rhinos gaining as much game time as possible.

Not likely, obviously, given the ties and affection he has for a club where he has spent his entire adult life and enjoyed repetitive successes.

But the former England hooker, who turns 33 in September, has been used predominantly off the bench by Leeds head coach Brian McDermott despite him clearly still being one of the most dynamic players in Super League.

If the Rhinos are struggling tomorrow at Wakefield Trinity – home of the division’s bottom club but a squad desperate to impress their new coach Brian Smith – then McDermott will likely look to Burrow for some inspiration.

But, because of that reduced game time, there had been speculation the six-time Grand Final winner might see out his days elsewhere. And he wouldn’t be short of offers.

That is until, however, Burrow – more renowned as a scrum-half – instead recently signed a two-year deal to stay at Headingley until the end of 2017.

“Obviously I want to start games,” he explained, having done so in just three of his 15 appearances so far this term.

“But you do whatever you can for the team.

“Wherever I am played and whatever game time I get, I am just going to go out and do my best for the team.

“It is nice to get my future sorted. I can move on now and I’m looking forward to the next two years.

“You take every year at a time, but I’ll be 35 when this contract finishes.

“I’ll see what happens after that, at the moment I am going to concentrate on getting to the end of this contract and then I’ll see how I feel.

“I’m at the stage where I see how I feel at the end of every year, but I’ve never wanted to leave Leeds.

“It is the only club I’ve ever played at and the only one I would ever want to play at. I’m not a Leeds lad, but in rugby terms I started from here and I want to end here.”

It would be no surprise if Burrow ended up on the coaching staff at Headingley; there is a recent history of some retiring players moving into those roles such as Francis Cummins and Willie Poching.

He already coaches Leeds’s under-16s, who are unbeaten this year, and has seen previous students, such as Liam Sutcliffe, advance into the first team alongside him.

Firstly, though, Burrow is set for a greater leadership role in 2016 when Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield, totemic Jamie Peacock and, probably, long-serving Kylie Leuluai will have all moved on.

“There’ll be a massive alteration to the team next year,” he said.

“It will be a big change and people like me, Mags (Danny McGuire) and Jonesy (Jamie Jones-Buchanan) will be the older ones in there. It is natural you just take over, because the normal voices aren’t in there.”

All his experience could come in useful at Wakefield tomorrow as they face West Yorkshire rivals who have lost 13 successive league games but are intent on ending their slump.

“It will be tricky,” continued Burrow. “Form is irrelevant when you play games like this. Certain teams play well against certain teams, no matter what form they are in. Wakefield at Wakefield will be a really tough one. Clubs look at Leeds, certainly on their own ground, to really kick-start their season.

“They will see us as a great opportunity to put things right. Our form hasn’t been great in the league – but we’d like to think that’s out slump done.”

England Academy half-back Jordan Lilley, 18, could make his Leeds debut at Wakefield.

Liam Sutcliffe, Jimmy Keinhorst, Josh Walters, Andy Yates and Robbie Mulhern have also been drafted into Rhinos’ 19-man squad.