Future uncertain for Senior
Keith Senior found himself in familiar surroundings when he entered the winners’ dressing room at Old Trafford on Saturday but his own Grand Final celebrations were distinctly muted this time.
The former Great Britain centre played in the first 14 games of Leeds Rhinos’ 2011 Engage Super League campaign before damaging his cruciate ligament in a Carnegie Challenge Cup tie against Harlequins RL in May and has not played since.
He does not think his contribution will be enough to earn him a fifth Super League ring but he was happy for his team-mates to bask in the glory of their latest triumph over St Helens.
“I’m not expecting one,” he said. “I’ll take a back seat. It’s about these boys. They have done the hard work and deserve everything they have achieved.”
He is one of the modern game’s leading players and certainly one of the most recognisable but, after playing in 560 matches, 365 of them for Leeds, Senior is facing an uncertain future.
Released by the Rhinos in mid-season following his injury, he saw a proposed move to Crusaders RL fall through when the Wrexham club without warning withdrew their Super League licence application and he has yet to find a new club for 2012.
“I have a few irons in the fire but I’m focusing on getting my knee right before making any decision,” he said. “I want to play on. I still feel I have a lot to offer.”
Senior underwent three knee operations after suffering the first major injury of his career but he has no plans to hang up his boots just yet, despite turning 36 in April.
“I want to go out on my own terms,” he said. “Steve Menzies was outstanding for Catalan in 2011 at 37 and has decided to go round for at least one more year so there’s no reason why I can’t do the same.”
Senior insists he will not drop down from Super League, where he is poised to become the last man standing after previous ever-presents Sean Long and Paul Johnson announced their retirements, but time is running out.
He has fielded interest from French rugby union but a plan to link up with his old Sheffield Eagles mentor John Kear at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats fell through when Kear’s contract was not renewed, and he fears he may have burned his boats at Headingley.
“Going back to Leeds was an option until my book was publicised and Brian McDermott wasn’t happy about it,” he said. “We’ll have to see what’s around the corner.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott apparently took exception to personal criticism by Senior in his newly-published autobiography 'The Bald Truth' (Great Northern Books/£16.99) which was serialised in a national newspaper.
Senior pulls no punches in the book, revealing he remains bitter over his treatment by the Rhinos and accuses McDermott of lacking man-management skills, but has no regrets over the publication.
“I’ve had a lot of positive comments,” he said. “It’s gone down really well. I don’t think the serialisation helped but, if you read the full chapters, it has come across well.
“Obviously when books are serialised, they have got to pick up on the juicy stuff and the controversial things but I feel I’ve not been controversial. I am confident I’ve not offended anybody.”
The book is a good read. Senior has lots of tales to tell and not all are confined to the rugby field as he traces his rise from the council estate to the country manor.
He reveals all about the “kiss-and-tell” furore that erupted in Australia during the 2008 World Cup, for example, and talks of his regret over the failed drug test in 2004 which drove him to almost quit the game.
Senior, who won 33 caps for Great Britain, also gives his forthright opinions on the coaches he has played under.
Tony Smith is rated the best technically, he has raps for Australian David Waite, believes John Kear is the best motivator and says Leeds went backwards in the final year under Brian McClennan.
McDermott had the last laugh by guiding Leeds to Grand-Final glory from fifth place and Senior has some positive things to say about the former Bradford Bulls prop.
“I wasn’t happy about Brian’s role in my departure but I think he has got a lot to offer as a coach,” he said.