Sky Sports talks to the Rhinos half-back about life at Leeds, his England career and what he likes to do away from rugby...
By Jordan Fiddes - follow me @JordanFiddes85. Last Updated: 09/11/12 11:35am
In 2012 Danny McGuire became the all-time top-try scorer in Super League's history, crossing for his 200th against Wakefield Wildcats. In 2013, the Rhinos' number six begins his testimonial year for the club.
You might think achieving such feats would be a good time to start winding down, but nothing could be further from the truth for the Leeds half-back. I caught up with Danny before he begins his pre-season training to ask him a few questions about his outstanding decade in rugby league.
Sky Sports: How did you first get into the sport and who inspired you?
Danny McGuire: I lived just up the road from East Leeds ARLFC and all the kids in the area played for them. My dad and grandad were both very sporty, playing rugby, football and cricket, so it seemed to be natural to do that. From a young age, I played rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer.
SS: Were you always a prolific try-scorer in your early days?
DM: It's just one of those things I suppose; I've always been able to put myself in the right place at the right time. I've constantly had good players around me which certainly helps and being able to understand them is something I have been lucky enough to be blessed with. At Leeds, we haven't had much turnover of players so I have been able to learn what my team-mates are going to do by regularly training with them. Jamie Peacock is a great example of that; I know when he is going to make a dent in the line and I just make sure I am on his shoulder. Same with Rob Burrow - when he makes a break, I try to ensure I am in full support.
SS: You made your debut for Leeds in 2001 against Salford, how did that feel?
DM: We'd had a very successful Academy team and quite a few of us were making our debuts around then. Chev Walker was 16 when he first got into the first team and I was 18. I'd been at Leeds since I was 13 and I had always believed I would play in the first team for them so to actually do so was pretty special.
SS: What has been your most memorable game playing for Leeds Rhinos?
DM: The 2003 Challenge Cup semi-final against St.Helens was pretty surreal. I was on the bench and came on, managing to score in the corner to send the game into extra-time. I got another late-on which won us the game and I think it was the first time people became aware of me and expectations grew from there.
SS: You missed out on the final that year, how hard was that to take?
DM: The final was only two weeks after that semi-final so I presumed I had done enough to get my place, but it just wasn't to be. Although that was a negative at the time, I have always seen that as a positive since then. It was a real down moment in my career but has made me appreciate the successes even more. Most players have had disappointment at some stage, it's just how you react to it that makes you the player you are. From that moment on, I said to myself that if we got to any other finals, I would make sure that my name was on the team sheet. Luckily I didn't have to wait too long as we reached the Grand Final the following year!
SS: Tony Smith took over at Leeds not long after that cup final, how much of an influence was he on you and on the club?
DM: He was great. Tony brought a lot of training techniques with him from Australia which had never been seen before, most of which are still being used today. He was just what we needed at the time as we had a lot of young and hungry players and if you look back at that team he turned about 75% of them into internationals. Obviously, we had a lot of success then too, so it was a good time to be around the club.
SS: In 2004, you played Bradford in the Grand Final and scored the deciding try. Would you say that was your most important of your career to date?DM: That's my favourite try without a doubt! It had been a real tough month leading up to that game after we had lost to Bradford and we were being labelled "chokers." To go into that game and get that try at the end was special; I still remember it like it was yesterday.
SS: The following year, you scored 35 tries in Super League, yet Lesley Vainikolo managed to pip you to the top-scorer award. How did that feel?
Earlier on in my career I did want to score myself but as you get older and wiser you realise it is about the team. The ultimate goal in our game is to get over the line, but I think I have developed to be more of a team player over the years. In that year, I remember we played London in the last game of the season but I had a dead leg and didn't play, Lesley needed a hat-trick to beat me, which he duly managed to get against Hull. It would have been nice to finish above him but we went on to win the league that year so it wasn't too bad in the end!
SS: Under Brian McDermott, you have moved from stand-off to scrum-half, which do you prefer?
DM: I get asked this quite a lot, but, in all honestly there is not much difference in the two roles. There is a little bit more organisation at scrum-half these days, whereas at stand-off you can float in and out of the game and not have as much responsibility. I've definitely enjoyed scrum-half; it may take a few things from your game but it adds a lot too. I've really relished the extra responsibility to be honest.
SS: Kevin Sinfield has replaced you at stand-off, how much of an influence has he been on you and on the team?
DM: Kev, Rob and I have been lucky in that we have played together in the three key-positions for most of our professional careers. We all understand each-others game and not one of us wants to take too much control, we want to do it together. That's another reason why we are so successful because we all work so well together.
SS: With your suspension, how did it feel watching the play-off semi-final against Wigan from the sidelines?
DM: It was tough. I had missed a couple of games with my knee injury but not being able to play when you are fit is really hard. The lads did a great job that night, though, and I am forever grateful for them giving me the chance to play in the final.
SS: You've made 19 appearances for your country, are you happy with how your international career has gone so far? Are you hoping for a spot in the World Cup squad in 2013?
DM: If I'm honest, it's probably not gone as well as I would have liked. I had a good introduction into international rugby in 2004 when we beat Australia in my first game. We also beat New Zealand twice in that series, so I was pretty happy after that. I've been in and out of the side since then and I've never really felt like I have kicked on from that first series. I hope that I will still have an opportunity to rectify it with the World Cup coming up, however. Everyone wants to be a part of it, so if I hit some good form next season I can push my claims to play representative rugby again.
SS: What interests do you have outside of Rugby?
DM: I'm sports mad, if you come to my house there is always something on the TV related to sport. I've always been into my cricket, football and horse racing as well. I like to spend a lot of time with my family just like anybody else. I'm also an ambassador for Leeds Mencap and do as much for them as I can. They are an excellent organisation and I help out wherever possible.
SS: Did you ever think you would get a testimonial at Leeds?
DM: When I used to think about testimonials, I thought about footballers in their swansong but it's different in our sport and especially at Leeds. We've had seven testimonials in the last eight years at Leeds which just shows how much loyalty there is and how well we have been looked after by the club. It's not a swansong; it's more of a thank you to the fans and vice versa. I started my testimonial in September and have a 'Legends half-back night' on Friday November 9 with the likes of Lewis Jones, Iestyn Harris and Garry Schofield all attending. There are a number of events coming up over the year too.
SS: Why do you think there is such loyalty at Leeds?
DM: It's a great club to play for and, obviously, the success we have had over recent years has certainly helped! Once you get a taste for winning and playing in the big games, you get hungry for more. The way we are treated by the club is brilliant too; we get everything we need and all the support we require is there.
Danny's testimonial began in September and as well as the eagerly anticipated 'Legends Half-Back' dinner he has a Christmas party lined up, a friendly game against the Bradford Bulls in January and a golf day in the summer. For further details about any of the upcoming events please visit www.dannymcguire.co.uk or call 0844 248 6651.