Wing beneath the win
As Leeds bask in Grand Final glory, Phil Clarke celebrates the role played by the selfless Scott Donald.
Last Updated: 13/10/09 3:23pm
'Thank you' doesn't seem an adequate way to sum up my gratitude to the players of both Leeds and St Helens, who showed why they are the best two teams in this country on Saturday night.
The match went into the last 10 minutes with just a point separating them and had enough controversy to ensure that this game will be spoken of for years to come.
Much of the post-match debate centred around Lee Smith's try from Danny Maguire's brilliant left-foot kick but I felt that the official's decision to award a scrum feed to Leeds from the Gidley pass to Gardner 10m from the Saints try-line was equally as contentious.
As I drove home from the game, I concluded that the Rhinos deserved to win for their ability to cope with the Saints' pressure in the opening 30 minutes.
Leeds are the only team in this competition who could handle that kind of onslaught without cracking.
They're probably the only team capable of preventing a miracle try by Kyle Eastmond as well. If they ever make a DVD called 101 Try Saving Tackles, Sinfield's will be the first one onto it.
My admiration for the Rhinos' goes beyond their star players like Sinfield.
Winning teams also need willing workers who are prepared to do some of the unnoticed graft. Ian Kirke is one such example.
Ten years ago he made his debut in the old Second Division when playing for Hull KR. It took him seven years of hard work at the lower levels before he was given a chance by the Rhinos.
Few players have the patience, dedication or persistence to progress to their Super League debut at 25 after spending time at Dewsbury and York, but this 6' 4" man-mountain did. He even broke his leg in June this year and yet made a recovery in time to play in his third consecutive Grand Final.
If the other clubs in Super League are looking for tips from the Rhinos, there's one they might not have noticed!
One of the most selfless acts of Super League XIV was Scott Donald's agreement to move from the left wing to the right.
In 2008 he scored 26 tries whilst operating outside Keith Senior but agreed to go over to the right side to help improve their defence.
His experience and voice has tightened up the Rhinos on the right and yet most of the tries have gone to the left side again. Donald's try count has halved this year, but it was all for the team's benefit.
It is also worth pointing out something that the St Helens club have done over the past few years. The day after the Grand Final they took their Academy team on a tour to Australia.
This is the third time in the last six years that the club have organised such a trip and it is partly responsible for the successful youth development that has taken place under Mike Rush.
Both of the clubs in the Grand Final use their resources more intelligently than the rest of the Super League competitors.