Danny McGuire: ‘I may come back to Leeds – to play cricket’

Leeds Rhinos' Danny McGuire celebrates scoring in the Grand Final against Castleford Tigers in 2017.
Leeds Rhinos' Danny McGuire celebrates scoring in the Grand Final against Castleford Tigers in 2017.

LEEDS RHINOS legend Danny McGuire has revealed he is heading back to where it all began – East Leeds.

However, before fans at his amateur club start to get too excited, the Hull KR star admits it will only to play one of his other loves: cricket.

Prolific half-back McGuire has announced this will be the final season of his brilliant career which saw him win eight Grand Finals with Leeds, become Super League’s greatest-ever try-scorer and represent both England and Great Britain.

The 36-year-old kicks off 2019 for Rovers in their derby against Hull FC on February 1.

But it begs the question what he will be doing in 2020 – turning out for East Leeds ARLFC in the National Conference League perhaps?

“Not a chance!” he told the YEP.

“I’ll probably play for East Leeds cricket club, though. And I’ll get the golf sticks out more, too. But I’m not playing rugby for East Leeds at 36.

“I might as well have a bullseye on my forehead! I think there’d be a few people wanting to go after me!”

In the past, former professional players have returned to their amateur clubs to play on a more casual basis including Lee Radford, Dean Sampson and Deryck Fox.

However, it does not seem to happen too often now and McGuire – who is a talented batsman in cricket – added: “It depends how long your career goes on.

“I’ve seen a few lads that finish a little bit earlier and then might go back to play for their amateur club, turning out for them instead.

“But I won’t be doing it!”

In terms of what the future does hold in store, McGuire admits he would eventually like to lend his expertise as a specialist half-back coach.

It certainly makes sense given he has been one of the best of the modern era.

Australian immortal Andrew Johns hires himself out in such a manner, dipping into clubs at different times to take their creative hubs under his wing.

Utilising McGuire’s vast experience and skillset is something the RFL could perhaps take advantage of when looking at England’s playmakers across the age groups. However, he is not thinking too far ahead just yet, merely concentrating on making the most of his final campaign with the Robins.

McGuire said: “I’ve nothing planned yet, had no offers but my main focus is playing now.

“At some point I will have to sort my future but there’s no rush yet. Over the next few months I’ll see what opportunities are out there but I would like to stay involved in the game if I can.

“I’d really enjoy doing some individual coaching, working with half-backs. I don’t think there’s anyone really doing that but I think it’s so crucial. That’d be my preferred route.

“You get players who want to coach but going to tell a prop how to do his role is not something I’d automatically think of doing.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done but it’d be a hell of a lot easier to work with half-backs and share experiences I’ve had as a player in that position. It is something I’m really keen on.”

The obvious route would be back to Emerald Headingley where McGuire spent 20 years with his hometown club, amassing more than 400 games and scoring 267 tries before joining Rovers last season. Indeed, one by one, the band seems to be getting back together there; captain Kevin Sinfield is now installed as director of rugby, Rob Burrow is on the coaching staff and Dave Furner – the Australian who featured in Rhinos’ first Grand Final success with McGuire in 2004 – has returned as head coach ahead of next month’s season start.

Even Jamie Peacock, who retired after Leeds’ 2015 treble-success and enticed McGuire to Craven Park when Rovers’ head of rugby, returned last month in Rhinos’ commercial department. McGuire added: “And JJB (Jamie Jones-Buchanan) will be retiring at the end of the year, too.

“The plan was always to go back to Leeds Rhinos at some point. But sometimes it doesn’t work out like that does it? I really enjoy it at Hull KR and I’ve learned loads off Tim (Sheens) already in a short space of time.”

As a coaching mentor, there are not many better than Sheens, the Rovers boss who won the 2013 World Cup with the Kangaroos and wracked up a record amount of first-grade games in Australia. McGuire hopes their union will be productive in 2019 after a difficult last campaign.

The player shone when fit but was hindered by a series of injury problems, not least an unusual blood clot in his calf.

McGuire admitted: “The expectations are probably a little higher now; being the promoted club it was just about finding our feet and survival.

“We’ve signed some good players, added some quality and it’s a great club.

“I just want to show what we can do. We’ve no excuses now.”