Gutted is the only word Iím using to describe my feelings in regards to Leeds Rhinos not competing in this weeks World Club Challenge. The only way I can compensate for that feeling is by indulging in the past victories and defeats that my dear team have experienced in this prestigious contest between the previous seasons best two rugby league sides in the world.
This brings me straight to 2005, when the all-conquering Canterbury Bulldogs side featuring two of the all-time greats in Sonny Bill Williams and Hazem El Masri, came to play at Elland Road in Leeds. It was in front of the second highest crowd ever to be attracted to this fixture as 37,208 rugby league fanatics came to witness the best northern and southern hemisphere clubs lock horns.
Feel Free to relive that match here.
Looking back at this 2005 encounter conjures up more questions than answers for me personally. At the time it seemed that the Rhinos were pretty much invincible as they overcame the greatest challenge ever to face the club. But looking back in hindsight it seems that this was the end of a journey for the club weíve reached our destination as champions of the world.
For me this journey began in 1999 when we won the Challenge Cup Final for the first time since the late 1970s. Iíd never seen a sporting team from this city win a trophy before and this was probably thanks to me been raised in a family who liked rugby league more than football. The Challenge Cup Final was on in the afternoon, Leeds won and that was the end of it. We havenít won a Challenge Cup since.
The next significant part of my rugby league journey was the whole 2004 season when Leeds Rhinos were ripping everyone to shreds. The game that I like to remember most fondly was Leeds 70 Wigan 0. We were crowned league leaders for the first time in Superleague and rightfully so. Then we went on to become Superleague champions for the first ever time. Finally I'd have seen Leeds win the big three domestic cups that you can get in this country and I was ecstatic.
After the 2005 World Club Challenge, the sport just wasnít the same for me anymore. It was all about chasing as many trophies as possible from hereon in and Leeds did just that with three more Grand Final wins along with one more World Club Challenge final win. Looking back, all this does give me a warm feeling inside. But thereís no doubt that if I could relive anything it would be The 1999 Challenge Cup final, the 2004 season and Grand Final along with the 2005 World Club Challenge. This was when I feel that the Rhinos were at their most entertaining.
All the best Wigan this week, but I wished it was Leeds instead.
A big thanks to Paul for the match report and RLPHOTOS.