If Kevin Sinfield is feeling the burden of being the most unsuccessful captain in the history of the Challenge Cup, he is not letting it show.
Of the six finals Leeds have lost since they last triumphed in the competition, he wore the armband in five – and will do so again against Castleford at Wembley on Saturday.
Sinfield is widely regarded as one of the best captains in the British game; but there is a very big “apart from” attached to that assessment.
“I’ve been asked probably 500 times whether my career would be incomplete without this, but I won’t know till I finish,’ says the England half-back, who believes he now has Cup finals in perspective.
“You sometimes take the game out of context. There are things that are more important than one game of rugby.
“A very wise old man once told me that the best medals you ever have are your children. I fully understand what that means now.”
Sinfield and his team have had a different sort of preparation this year. For one thing, he was suspended for the first time in his career, for butting one of Saturday’s opponents, Luke Dorn. However, he used his enforced break to have extra training.
Sinfield gives the Castleford coach, Daryl Powell, the credit for the Tigers’ unexpected run to this weekend’s final. Powell, in his first season as Leeds coach in 1993, identified Sinfield as the player to lead a Golden Generation while Sinfield credits Powell with revitalising not his side.
“I like him a lot,” he says. “Hopefully, we can be good enough to get the result we want. It’s just a shame it’s against Daryl.”
Sinfield has been noticeably more relaxed in the build-up. It has been a contrast with the grim-faced concentration of previous years, but perhaps it is just what Leeds and Sinfield have needed all along.