GIVEN he is one of the most positive, effusive people you are likely to meet, it should come as no surprise Leeds Rhinos’ Jamie Jones-Buchanan firmly believes he can round off his decorated career with a Super League and Challenge Cup double.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the gnarled back-row becoming a Super League player, the start of a glorious journey that has seen vast hordes of silverware won.
The ex-Great Britain forward, 37, is the last remaining member of the ‘Golden Generation’ of homegrown stars who dominated the summer era for Leeds.
Jones-Buchanan will retire at the end of this season and, with Rhinos struggling in tenth, losing ten of their opening 14 games under new head coach Dave Furner, it certainly seems absurd to be talking about bowing out with an eighth Grand Final win.
However, the veteran player, one of the competition’s greatest forwards who has spoken about the power of belief, sees no reason why they should not.
“I imagine us doing the double,” he said.
We’re only two games from a semi-final, and there’s no reason why we can’t beat anybody on our day – and that far down the line we’ll be a better side.Jamie Jones-Buchanan
“I’ve always told myself stories. I told this to the lads the other day. There have been some moments in our season where we’ve blown teams off the park.
“Then there have been contrasting moments when we’ve almost put the cue on the rack or been disjointed. There’s this incongruence and this lack of connection, synergy between the team that takes time.
“But the signs of a great side are there.
“When you look at some of our KPIs (key performance indicators), I think we’re second for tackle busts, second for breaks, we’re right up there for most metres ... some of our stats are better now than they’ve been for years.
“Tackle busts and line breaks was always something Brian McDermott struggled with.
“He would always be into us saying we need to create more line breaks. Now we’re creating line breaks for fun, we’re just not defending very well.
“Whatever is creating the line breaks is probably being detrimental to us somewhere else. But I believe, as the season goes on and if we keep focused in the right way, there’s no reason why we can’t finish fifth.
“We’ve won the Grand Final from fifth before. We’re still in the Challenge Cup; we can win the Challenge Cup.
“We’re only two games from a semi-final, and there’s no reason why we can’t beat anybody on our day – and that far down the line we’ll be a better side.
“So realistically, in my mind, I think we can finish with a double this year.”
Jones-Buchanan made his debut for hometown Leeds in a home win against Wakefield Trinity on May 7, 1999, just a few days after Rhinos won the Challenge Cup for the first time in 21 years in the last final at the old Wembley.
He concedes he never believed he would still be playing now and had long since started formulating alternative career plans with a difference.
“As a youngster, I’d never have thought it was technically possible to play this long,” he said, having now reached 419 games for his hometown club and hoping to beat Ray Batten and Les Dyl (434 each) into ninth place on Leeds’ all-time leading appearance makers.
“In fact, I remember thinking in my early twenties that I’d probably be retired by the time we had the Olympics in 2012 ... and I was wondering what event I could do!
“I also had a recurring dream of being the first ever Leeds United and Leeds RL player.”
In a way, the 2008 World Club Challenge win over Melbourne Storm at Elland Road gave him an idea of just what that might be like.
“I got this shot on (Steve) Turner, the winger, and ended him. He went off too, which made it even better! I’d have got banned for it now as it was technically a shoulder charge.
“The Revie Stand just erupted. It was like I’d scored a goal. That was the most exhilarating moment of my career.”
Retirement is imminent but this legendary player will forever be enshrined in Leeds folklore.