INITIALLY, and for a short spell, Danny McGuire felt international rugby league was “easy”.
It should perhaps be no surprise; the way the fleet-footed former Leeds Rhinos stand-off terrorised Super League defences, it is understandable why he might have found the step up to elite level so comfortable.
However, it was more because of what happened the first time he started for Great Britain.
Pulling on the famous Lions jersey had been a childhood dream of McGuire’s when growing up in east Leeds and in 2004 he managed to do just that.
He was already delirious having, just weeks earlier, helped Rhinos win the league title for the first time in 32 years, scoring the crucial try in the Grand Final at Old Trafford. When the Great Britain call came for the home Tri-Nations against Australia and New Zealand, it was icing on the cake for the player, who was only 21 at the time.
“I was on the bench for my first Test (against Australia) but had a decent impact,” recalled McGuire, with the hosts narrowly losing out 18-12 at City of Manchester Stadium.
“But my first start was against the Kiwis at Huddersfield which we won and then I started against Australia at Wigan the following week and we beat them, too.
“So, at this point, I thought ‘this international game is easy!’ I actually won on my first three starts so to do that I thought I’d cracked it. But it went downhill after that, if I’m honest!
“The GB and England stuff didn’t go to plan after that apart from a couple of odd performances.
“But I enjoyed my time when I was there and obviously there’s no better feeling than to represent my country.”
Of course, since that night in Wigan when McGuire partnered Sean Long and the late Terry Newton, Stuart Reardon, Keith Senior and Stuart Fielden were try-scorers, Great Britain have only beaten Australia once and that was over in Sydney in 2006.
England have not even enjoyed one win. McGuire, who retired last week after rounding off his trophy-laden career with Hull KR, recalled: “I was involved with Great Britain in ’04 through to ’07 when it finished.
“I’d say my first experience was my best, to be honest.
“I remember walking into camp that first year and there were people like Paul Sculthorpe, Andy Farrell and Kris Radlinski.
“Being a young kid I was in awe of those sorts of superstars but they were all brilliant with me.
“I really enjoyed that first one.
“For Australia, Darren Lockyer played six (in the final the Lions lost 44-4 at Elland Road) and Brett Kimmorley was the half.
“They were class. Sonny Bill Williams played for the Kiwis so you were up against that sort of absolute quality.
“It was great. Because you’re only 21 you’re a bit naive and until you look back at it you don’t really realise the magnitude of the players that you are playing against. You just go out and do it.”
McGuire missed the following year’s Tri-Nations due to groin surgery. He did tour Down Under in 2006 although did not feature in that famous win in Sydney.
Lastly, McGuire – fresh from the second of his eight Grand Final wins with Leeds – came off the bench in all three Tests as Great Britain whitewashed the Kiwis here in 2007.
“I played in the last Lions game before it finished and scored as we beat New Zealand at Wigan,” added McGuire, who claimed five tries in the jersey with another four during seven appearances for England.
“I had some good times with the GB shirt on and it’s really nice to see it back.
“I’m sure the lads will do the shirt proud at the end of the year when they head to New Zealand to face Tonga, the Kiwis and then on to PNG.”