Shaun Lunt: Plumber who mops up leaks in defence

The Leeds hooker was let go by the Giants but on Saturday he meets them in the Challenge Cup final. He talks to Dave Hadfield

When Shaun Lunt arrives at Wembley this weekend, it will not be via the conventional route. For one thing, he is with Leeds but not of Leeds, thanks to the unusual situation of playing a Challenge Cup final while on loan from his parent club.

For another, while most of his team-mates on Saturday were working their way through the Rhinos' highly structured and productive development pipeline and getting their first opportunities in the Super League side, he was working as a plumber in his native Cumbria.

"I suppose I was a bit of a late developer," says the 25-year-old hooker. "My dad played semi-pro for Carlisle, so that was always my aim – to be a professional rugby league player."

It all seemed to be going according to script when Castleford signed him and his brother, Rob, as teenagers, but, after one season and four first-team games, he was released.

It was back to West Cumbria, a part-time playing contract at Workington Town and a day job fixing malfunctioning toilets and cisterns.

"It taught me a lot," he says. "It taught me I didn't like working. I don't think anyone does, really. I'm glad I did it, though, because it made me appreciate what has happened since. There's no way I'd take it for granted.

"When I'm driving to training in the morning, I see lads setting off in their vans and I think that could be me."

Lunt's rugby career could also have drained away in the Co-operative Championship, were it not for his own persistence. He was an outstanding player at that level, winning the competition's young player of the year award three years running, but he hankered after a second chance in Super League. He made his own highlights DVD and circulated it to clubs. For most of his three seasons back on the North-west frontier there was no response, but eventually the steady drip, drip, drip wore them down.

"I just kept asking for a chance and, in the end, Huddersfield bit," admits Lunt. He was an immediate success at the Giants, playing and scoring a try in the 2009 Cup final, a defeat at the hands of Leeds' Wembley opponents this year, Warrington.

The following season he won his one England cap, so it was a surprise when he began to slip down the pecking order at Huddersfield this year. Basically, the Giants had an embarrassment of options in his specialist position.

Both Luke Robinson and Tommy Lee had come to be regarded primarily as hookers and when Huddersfield also signed Scott Moore from Widnes Lunt knew that he would have to look elsewhere for regular first-team rugby.

"Nothing against the club or the coaches, but I'm not a teenager and I need to be playing first team," says Lunt. What he did not expect was that his chance would come a few miles up the road with the Rhinos. "When you go out on loan, you expect to go to a lower club, not one as big or bigger," he says. "You also don't expect to go to Wembley with them."

At Headingley, Lunt has formed an increasingly fashionable compare-and-contrast hooking partnership with Rob Burrow.

"Rob is a fantastic player who always makes an impact. We're very different in the way we play, but that seems to work well," Lunt says.

Whereas the diminutive Burrow is all about pace and elusiveness, Lunt majors on some other aspects of the role, notably his try-scoring ability near the line, his strength as a runner and – appropriately in view of his one-time employment – his energy in mopping up any leaks in defence.

Provided Burrow is fit again after a calf injury – as he is almost certain to be – the two will divide the duties at Wembley. What might not be known until shortly before kick-off time is which of them will start and which will be on the bench.

The Leeds coach, Brian McDermott, who decided on this change of direction in mid-season, is giving little away on that score. "I've got some good options," McDermott says.

For Lunt, it has been the luck of the draw that has brought him this close to a second Wembley appearance. When both Leeds and Huddersfield made the last four of the Cup, he knew that if the two sides ending up opposing each other in the semi-final or final that would automatically rule him out. Fortunately for him, the Giants were drawn against (and then knocked out by) Warrington, another club that operates a highly successful double act at hooker.

"They are a contrast as well," Lunt says. "Michael Monaghan won the Lance Todd Trophy [for man of the match in the Challenge Cup final] and he's a great organiser. While he's been out, though, Mickey Higham has been starting games and playing some fantastic football – probably the best of his career."

Given that the service from dummy-half is as fundamental to modern-day rugby league as the serve is to tennis, the 2012 Challenge Cup could well be won and lost by the contributions of the four hookers.

Only one of them, however, plays by virtue of having been loaned out as surplus to requirements. "I've still got three more years on my contract at Huddersfield," says Lunt. "But I'm not thinking about that this week."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence