Ranking every Leeds Rhinos captain since Kevin Sinfield retired

Since Kevin Sinfield departed Leeds at the end of the treble-winning 2015 season, the captaincy has been handed to several players at Headingley.

Interestingly, nobody who has taken on the role since ‘Sir Kev’ has lasted more than two years – which probably highlights the inconsistencies of the club’s on-field performance since arguably their greatest ever player hung up his boots in the sport.

So, with that in mind, we have taken a look at which players were the most and least successful in their role as skipper of Leeds Rhinos over the last six seasons.

7. Stevie Ward

Record as captain: P1 W0 L1

Best moment: N/A

Overall impact: Ward was announced as the new Leeds captain ahead of the 2020 season, however after multiple head knocks in pre-season and the first game of Super League in 2020, the loose forward was forced to retire on medical grounds. He seemed to be the one to lead the Rhinos and fans were ambitious about his role as captain, but sadly injuries took it away from him. The case of Ward is a sad one, he had all the attributes to not only lead Leeds into the future but potentially his country – if you’re reading this Stevie, we hope you are well and all Rhinos fans still appreciate you!

6. Trent Merrin

Record as captain: P9 W5 L4

Best moment: 44-0 win at Huddersfield

Overall impact: Merrin took over as captain when Kallum Watkins moved to Gold Coast Titans in mid-2019. The Australian showed promising signs of the future but left the club at the end of 2019 due to family reasons. There is no question he would have maintained the captaincy had he stayed, as he led by example consistently and built up a great relationship with the fans at Headingley. Another case of what might have been.

5. Matt Prior

Record as captain: P9 W5 L4

Best moment: Playoff win at Wigan

Overall impact: Despite not being given the armband at the start of his time at Leeds, Prior has always been a natural leader in the dressing room. His wealth of experience was, and still is, a strength of his game and he can use it to develop younger players like Tom Holroyd and Sam Walters. When Luke Gale was stripped of the captaincy, it was clear that Prior was the one to take over. Though he was open and honest enough to say that he found it difficult at times, relinquishing the armband voluntarily to Leeming ahead of the 2022 campaign, Prior did not do a bad job as skipper and was 80 minutes away from leading the Rhinos out in a Grand Final.

4. Kallum Watkins

Record as captain: P35 W15 L20 D1

Best moment: 2018 World Club Challenge

Overall impact: Watkins himself has publicly stated that he was in a tough place mentally at the time when he was Leeds captain. Still, his presence and experience on the field were key in times of coaching changes and poor league form. He was significantly hampered by an ACL injury that kept him out for over half the season, but when he was on the pitch you could see his impact. Without that injury, Kallum could still be at Leeds, and potentially as skipper, but things don’t always go as planned and luck certainly wasn’t on his side.

3. Kruise Leeming

Record as captain: P16 W6 L9 D1

Best moment: 62-12 win at Hull FC

Overall impact: Kruise was a surprise choice of captain, but he seems to be flourishing in the role at the minute. He has three tries and nine assists so far this season and has announced himself as a vital player in Rohan Smith’s squad. He will be just as important in the second half of the season as Leeds aim to reach the playoffs. Leeming has matured as a player and an individual over recent times and now possesses the leadership qualities that could see him included in Shaun Wane’s England squad for the World Cup.

2. Luke Gale

Record as captain: P25 W17 L8

Best moment: 2020 Challenge Cup Final

Overall impact: Though he was stripped of the captaincy in July 2021, Gale’s on-field impact cannot be undermined. His game management and crucial drop goals won Leeds many games, most famously his one-pointer against Salford to win the 2020 Challenge Cup. Gale was very vocal on the pitch during his time at Headingley and was the natural choice as captain. He oversaw a mini revival on the team front and though his time at Leeds ended under a cloud, his stint as skipper was still a successful one.

1. Danny Mcguire

Record as captain: P64 W37 L27

Best moment: 2017 Grand Final

Overall impact: When Sinfield announced he was leaving at the end of 2015, questions were asked over who would take over the captain’s role. The captaincy reign was handed to fellow Rhinos legend Danny McGuire, who often shared the role with Rob Burrow. Together, the pair would lead the Rhinos to their eighth and most recent Grand Final win. The influence of the pair cannot be taken for granted, from battling relegation in 2016 to winning the league in 2017. McGuire was very vocal on the pitch, arguably more vocal than Sinfield during their decade of success together, and he showed great leadership during his time as skipper. Communication is key on the pitch and ‘Magsy’ was always talking, organising, and motivating the team – it’s probably the reason Leeds were so good in big games and were able to beat Castleford in the 2017 Grand Final.

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