At the end of this First Utility Super league season we say goodbye to one of the true greats of the sport, Jamie Peacock. The Leeds Rhinos number 10 moves onto pastures new with Hull KR, swapping the intensity of the rugby field for the pressure of the office, as Football Manager with the Robins.
All Leeds Rhinos fans dreaded the day we would have to say goodbye to Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock but that day has arrived. Kevin Sinfield is moving to rugby union with Yorkshire Carnegie and Jamie to the offices of Hull. Both of these tremendous players will undoubtedly leave a huge hole in the Headingley outfit, Sir Kev the greatest ever captain of the Rhinos and JP the man of steel in the middle.
Jamie Peacock is much more than the Rhinos number 10, his Super League career started in 1999 at a club down the road in Bradford. Whilst at the Bulls JP made a name for himself as one of the best middle men and leaders in the country, leading the Bulls to almost total domination of the competition. From 2000-2005 the Bulls lead by Peacock won 2 Challenge Cups, 3 Super League titles and 2 World Club Challenges. It was within his time at the Bulls that JP introduced himself on the international stage playing in a World Cup with England and earning a Great Britain call up also.
A boyhood fan to the man the South Stand adores, Peacock joined the Rhinos at the start of the 2006 season, he joined a golden generation of Rhinos stars about to take the Super League by storm; Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield, JJB, Lee Smith etc. Jamie’s joining of the club led to a golden era in which the Rhinos won five Super League titles, three in a row. Although the Rhinos had masses of creative talent in Sinfield, McGuire, Donald and co, it can be no coincidence that this winning mentality coincided with Peacock joining the club. His never say die attitude, go forward and refusal to take a backward step rubbed off on the whole team and brought a new cut throat attitude to the club. The bond created within this special group was clear for all to see, us against the world, the rhinos against them all, Marching On Together. Never was this mentality tested more than in 2011 when the Rhinos disappointingly finished fifth in the regular league table, this finish meant the Rhinos would have to overcome all the odds to win the Super League title, that they did beating St Helens 32 -16. Although Rob Burrow claimed the man of the match players like Peacock laid the platform, making the hard carries when many other would have hid and left it to someone else, Peacock was the first with his hand up to drive the ball away from his own line, or take the hit against the biggest player on the field. It was this effort and determination that made his team mates and more often than not his opponents stand up and admire what a colossus JP actually is. A firm favourite with the fans, players and pundits. Peacock’s mentality kept the whole of Leeds believing.
The crowning glory, Challenge Cup 2014. Leeds v Castleford, the Rhinos trying to break their Wembley hoodoo. They’d been there before, seen, tried and failed, this golden generation missing the final piece of the puzzle. The final was a special day for all in Blue and Amber, there was something different in the air, a sense triumph awaiting. Freakish efforts up the middle by Jamie and Kylie led to Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire being able to manage the game perfectly and the World’s Best Winger Ryan Hall showing outlandish strength to embarrass the Cas defence twice. The Rhinos had their challenge cup, an image that will forever live in the memories of Rhinos fans the selfie between Sir Kev and JP with the trophy.
Already this season Jamie has shown he is still up there with the best in the Super League, still able to lead the Rhinos up the field with majestic runs and offloads and in fact this season adding an impressive offload and pass to his game to support the offload king Adam Cuthbertson. The combination of Jamie Peacock, Adam Cuthbertson and Paul Aiton has been the key to the Rhinos dominating so much of the Super League season and retaining the Challenge Cup, my personal favourite moment of the cup run, (other than the final) Peacock’s superb try against St Helens, showing he’s not all brute strength, that moment a touch of class but also dragged the Rhinos back into the game and gave everyone around the ground reason to believe. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks well year on year Jamie Peacock has proved that statement to be null and void, this year the revitalised pack of the Rhinos has been more than a charge down the middle outfit, throwing caution to the wind at points with audacious offloads and cut out passes. Peacock has led this team remarkably and has left a legacy that may never be matched again. The question is can he finish it off with one final Old Trafford win?
The phrase Man Of Steel fits few better than Jamie Peacock, anyone who has seen this man play live have witnessed one of the greatest players, leaders and men the Rugby League world has ever seen. The long term question for the Leeds Rhinos… How do you replace the irreplaceable?