x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Saints face 'greedy' sinner

Greed may be a sin, but Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds Rhinos captain, readily admits it's one he is guilty of.

The Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield is eager to win his fourth Super League grand final.
The Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield is eager to win his fourth Super League grand final.

Greed may be a sin, but Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds Rhinos captain, readily admits it's one he is guilty of. He has three Super League winners' medals to his name already but is eager to add another to his collection in tomorrow's grand final against St Helens. "You do get greedy. I've been fortunate to lift a Super League trophy three times and to taste the success, feel the atmosphere, and you just want more of it," he said.

"In terms of the feelings you get, the special memories, money can't buy them. They are created at events like this final." If the Rhinos claim a third successive grand final win at Old Trafford, Sinfield will become the first man to captain a side to four victories in the end-of-season rugby league showpiece. "The records are for your career to look back on. Moments you will cherish and tell the grandchildren when you are older," he said.

"Moments like Saturday night are why we all play rugby league because it's a great occasion. The two best sides in the country going head to head in a final. I don't think it gets any better than that." Much of the build up to the match has been focused on Sean Long's autobiography. The St Helens player, who has four grand final wins, has made headlines with tales of excessive alcohol consumption and betting against his own team.

Sinfield is eager to read Long's book but does not follow the stereotype which portrays. "I understand there needs to be a time when you let your hair down and relax, and I understand there's a part to play within a team environment of alcohol in moderation," he said. "But while I've got this opportunity I want to do my best to fulfil it. I want to be the best I can be, a better rugby player and person.

"I understand within schools, and kids who play rugby, that we are going to be role models and I think it's important we send the right messages out." The winners of tomorrow's match will face Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge - a contest that could be held in a neutral venue. The match has been played in England since 2000, but supporters in the southern hemisphere will always consider the competition biased until the venue is neutral or rotated between host nations.

Sinfield welcomed the suggestion of a neutral venue and thinks Dubai Sports City would be ideal. "I think that would be fantastic. Whether it's Leeds or St Helens who win the grand final, if you said to them, 'come and play it in Dubai for the World Club Challenge', you couldn't get them on the plane quick enough. "It would suit the NRL team too as it would mean less travelling for them. I think it's really interesting and something we should explore. I also think it is something we need for the sport.

"We talk about northern England as the heartland of rugby league, but for it to grow and become a real global sport, we need to give people in other parts of the world the opportunity to see it and play it." He feels the sport is ripe for development in other countries and there is fresh talent waiting to be discovered. Sinfield's former Leeds teammate, Wayne McDonald, is one of the driving forces behind the new Emirates National Rugby League, which aims to help the UAE reach the 2013 World Cup qualifiers.

The game is particularly popular with the Lebanese community, thanks mainly to the success of Hazem El Mazri, the Tripoli-born winger who has just retired after 13 years in the NRL with the Canterbury Bulldogs. "He is a great example, and more could follow. There's talent everywhere and the great thing about rugby league is that you could be any shape, size or speed and there is a position for you," added Sinfield.

"You could also probably play it with a football if needs be, to help encourage people to play. It would be a great if there was a side in Dubai or it could host a World Club Challenge next year or in the future." akhan@thenational.ae