Sinfield talks up McDermott
Leeds Rhinos’ match-winning captain Kevin Sinfield has paid tribute to coach Brian McDermott for masterminding a fifth Grand Final appearance in six years.
The Rhinos will get the chance to defend their crown at Old Trafford next Saturday following a thrilling 13-12 win over Wigan Warriors in last night’s first semi-final at the DW Stadium.
Sinfield was the hero with four goals and a drop goals, yet he believes most of the credit should go to McDermott, who has guided Leeds to both the Challenge Cup final and the Grand Final in each of his first two seasons at the helm.
“He’s certainly the best coach I’ve had,” said Sinfield, who twice lifted the Super League trophy under Tony Smith, now coach of semi-finalists Warrington Wolves.
“His mix of man-management and his game plan is second to none. I think since Brian Mac has been in charge, we’ve been in every single final so far.
“I love playing for him. I can’t praise him enough, I’ve so much respect for him and I hope he’s here for a very long time. He needs to take some credit for what he’s done again, especially if you look at how many bodies we’ve got available.
“We’ve probably got one of the smallest squads running and add to that the amount of games we’ve had to play. It’s just been relentless for the group.
“We’ve been on our feet and playing every weekend now since the end of January and hopefully we’ve got one more big effort in us.”
Leeds are expected to be at full strength as they bid to land a sixth Grand Final.
Prop forward Kylie Leuluai, who sat out the Rhinos’ play-off win over Catalan Dragons in Perpignan, returned for last night’s tie while half-back Danny McGuire will be available for the final after being suspended against Wigan.
Sinfield, whose side were outscored by Wigan by two tries to one, admits they lacked the creativity and penetration of McGuire, who scored his 200th try in the opening play-off tie against Wakefield to become Super League’s all-time leading scorer.
“We were disjointed at times with the ball without Danny in the middle and it did affect us,” he said. “But the guys really dug in.
“Wigan are a great team so to beat them on their own patch is huge for us. The goal was to stay alive for another week and thankfully we’ve done that.”
Rob Burrow reverted effectively to his old scrum-half role against the Warriors, with Shaun Lunt starting the game at hooker, but the return of McGuire will provide another attacking weapon, according to Sinfield.
“To have Danny back is huge, especially with how he’s played this year,” Sinfield said. “There is no other player in the world who can give us what Danny gives us.
“The triangle of myself, Danny and Rob works really well, although I thought Shaun Lunt was huge for us with the minutes he played.
“But the three of us have done it for 13 or 14 years now and you take one of us out and it makes life difficult, certainly from an attacking perspective.
“To see Danny so happy after the game was brilliant. But we’ve still got a job to do. We wanted to stay alive for another week; we aren’t ready for it to finish yet. We’ve given ourselves a huge opportunity for next week.”