“I was in awe of them. How they spoke, and how they led.”
Double Grand Final winner Adam Cuthbertson is reliving the finest moments of his rugby career, as Leeds Rhinos bid to upset the odds again in the Betfred Super League Grand Final.
The Australian forward was a key part of the iconic Rhinos side that won the treble in 2015, and another Grand Final two years later on Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire’s farewell.
These were the kind of memories to last a lifetime, as Leeds’ ‘Band Of Brothers’ proved unbeatable on the big Old Trafford stage.
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For Cuthbertson, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Burrow, McGuire, Jamie Peacock and captain Kevin Sinfield, brought home the magic of elite sport on the big stage.
And, as the Rhinos bid to deny champions St Helens a record fourth successive crown in this year’s showpiece game, they are drawing on those special games to remember how Grand Finals are won.
McGuire and Burrow both turn 40 this year - Burrow on Monday - and Cuthbertson recalls how the two legends lit up Super League’s biggest nights.
“You look at Rob and the achievements he has had in his career and a lot of them have been highlighted within huge games,” he says.
“The same with Magsy. When anyone shows highlights of those two players they include huge moments in Grand Finals.
“Grand Finals tend to come down to a 17 buying into a very defensive gameplan based on not giving you territory, so you need players like Danny and Rob, where you give them a sniff and they take the opportunity.“
Burrow’s most memorable moment came in 2011, when he single-handedly destroyed St Helens with a sensational man-of-the-match performance.
McGuire’s moment came six years later in 2017, on what was his and Burrow’s last ever appearance for Leeds. McGuire grabbed his team by the scruff of the neck that night with an extraordinary display to beat Castleford.
“That game is probably the best performance I have ever seen from an individual in my career from the likes of Danny who really stepped up,” says Cuthbertson.
“Rob has had a lot of terrific moments in Grand Finals, and if you look at that 2017 Grand Final which was a very defensive orientated game because of the miserable conditions.
“Stevie Ward had to get his shoulder surgically put back in four days before the game to play, I did my knee and ankle ten minutes into the game. The gameplan was so specific about being solid in defence, our kick chase and having territory, that I didn’t need to do anything dramatic with the ball. We just had to keep turning up to give Rob or Danny an opportunity.”
Heroes are made in Grand Finals.
But for Cuthbertson, who is still playing as player-coach for Featherstone and could yet make this year’s Championship Grand Final too, Grand Finals are also made by the heroes who give their all in them.
And he knows that the legends who have worn the Leeds shirt in years gone by will have impacted every single player wearing that blue and amber jersey this weekend.
“I landed in Leeds knowing the history and knowing the big names like Peacock and Sinfield,” he added on the Love Rugby League podcast.
“I was in awe of them, how they spoke and how they led. It wasn’t long before they became good mates and you can learn from them in a positive manner.”
Both Leeds and Saints talk of the strength of bond and team unity that has been the cornerstone of their great successes. Only that creates the platform for the stardust to shine, for Burrow and McGuire to weave their magic in those big games, for Jack Welsby, Jonny Lomax and James Roby to become St Helens heroes in their dominant years since.
“2015 was a big eye-opener on leadership and the power of unity and buy-in,” Cuthbertson adds of that treble-winning season. Something he sees in both the current Leeds and Saints sides.
“Without that, we would never have lifted the three trophies.”
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