Powergen Cup final: Danny now more than a boy wonder

Leeds' young flyer adds maturity to his spectacular try-scoring talent
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is easy to forget that the Leeds half-back's glittering, try-laden career has encompassed two major disappointments. There was last November, when he was left out of Great Britain's starting line-up against Australia in the final of the Tri-Nations, after demonstrating his credentials in the lead-up games. Before that, in 2003, he was left out of Leeds' 17 for the Powergen Challenge Cup final, despite scoring the stunning try that got them there.

The way the 23-year-old has taken these disappointments in his stride marks him out as a mature player as well as a prodigiously gifted one. His reward will surely be a prominent role when the Rhinos go back to the Millennium Stadium to face Hull on Saturday, provided that, as expected, he recovers from the shoulder injury he suffered in Friday night's 42-10 defeat by Bradford.

"I was really upset," he says of his experience two years ago. "It was a massive disappointment, having to go out there and warm up in front of all the Leeds fans and then come off. I had to think about the good of the team, though, and it wouldn't do them any good if I was dragging my lip along the ground."

The then Leeds coach, Daryl Powell, made the wise decision to room the mortified McGuire with Kevin Sinfield, who had suffered similar heartbreak three years earlier. "It can be difficult to know what to say to people, but all the lads were outstanding with me."

Under a new coach, Tony Smith, McGuire went close to making himself indispensable last season, when his 38 Super League tries played a major part in ending Leeds' long wait for the title. Until those productive 33 minutes against London, this campaign had not brought quite the same success, although Smith praised him as much for his less spectacular contribution in the first half as for his try-scoring. For one thing, there have been injuries - a hernia and, after he had come back from that, a broken hand.

Then there is the inevitability that what McGuire does startlingly well - the pace, the support play, the curving trajectory that takes him out of tacklers' reach - is not as unfamiliar to defences any more. "Any player who has had a good couple of seasons finds that other teams have looked at your strengths and weaknesses," he says. "Teams shut you down quicker, so you have to keep on improving your game, and I think I've done that. It's not just about my pace now; I like to think of myself as a creative player as well. It's like Rob Burrow. He's developed his game in that direction as well."

McGuire and Burrow have played alongside each other since their schooldays, although, such is Leeds' wealth of options, it remains to be seen how much time they will spend on the field together at Cardiff. "I'd prefer to start, but I'll be happy being in the 17, just being involved," McGuire says. When he is involved - and the signs are that it will be for much of the game - he is likely to be up against another familiar face. Hull's half-back Danny Brough has taken such an obscure route to the Cup final that he qualifies as the mystery man in the contest, but he is no stranger to McGuire. "I've played a lot of games with Danny. We played together for Yorkshire as kids and we've played with and against each other lots of times. It didn't quite work out for him and he went to a National League club. He was too good for that division. It just shows what you can achieve if you're patient and you believe in your ability."

Brough has reached the final via the York City Knights of NL2, and McGuire believes that it is having to get there the hard way that will inspire many of the Hull men on Saturday. "Players like Ewan Dowes and Garreth Carvell will be looking for big games against their former club. There will be a lot of [former] Leeds players hoping to show that they would have made it if they had stayed here. We're looking at 80 minutes of very tough rugby. They played a great game against St Helens in the semi-final, when they stood up to everything Saints threw at them, and they'll be the same against us."

Comments