ALL the rhetoric has been about Leeds Rhinos potentially completing an unprecedented club treble tonight yet there is another trio of victories that could be even more impressive than that Grand Final, Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield haul.
Rob Burrow is just as synonymous with Old Trafford success as Leeds are themselves.
He has featured in all five of their Grand Final wins since 2004 and, invariably, rises to the occasion amid the murk of dank Manchester nights in October.
Indeed, in 2011, the scrum-half-cum-hooker became the first player to twice win the Harry Sunderland Trophy as the Grand Final’s man-of-the-match, having already notched it four years previously.
It would be fitting in this night of treble chances if Burrow also became the first player to extend it to three, although he faces stiff competition. The only other who can challenge him is his Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield, who also plays tonight and earned the award in 2009 and 2012.
Burrow’s master-class certainly came four years ago when, with the scores against St Helens locked at 2-2 following an attritional opening half-hour, he arrived off the bench and produced one of the most memorably stunning Grand Final tries.
Ducking, daring and darting his way to a solo spectacular, it crucially broke the deadlock.
He accelerated away in the second half, too, to furnish Ryan Hall with a try and, having terrorised Saints in 2007, slotting a drop goal against them just as he did again two years later, the former Great Britain player clearly loves Manchester United’s ground.
Burrow, 33, said: “I’ll settle for just a Leeds win and the treble!
“What comes with that I’m not sure; we’re focusing on the game.
“It’s been a great year so far and it’d be made even better if we can perform well here on Saturday but we know have to do that against a really good Wigan side.
“I do love it personally – playing at Old Trafford – and I know the team do.
“Why would you not? There’s been so many historic games here and we’ve been in some of those; it’s been a happy hunting ground for us but none of that is relevant if we don’t perform this weekend. Hopefully, we can bring our best performance.”
By his own high standards, Burrow has endured a frustrating season, at times left out by head coach Brian McDermott and managing just 13 starts.
A season-ending injury suffered by fellow rake Paul Aiton in August has seen him more involved again, though,
Burrow, who has played 435 games for the club he debuted with in 2001, admitted: “It has been a crazy year.
“I have had a few crazy years recently, to be fair. It has been a real low personally, at times, but I’d like to think I have contributed when given the opportunity.
“By injuries and things like that I have been given a shot towards the end and I just want to do my best for the team.
“That’s all I have ever thought about and it’s all anyone ever thinks about at Leeds, the team winning. I am confident and I am happy with my form going into this final and I am going to give it my best shot.”
He added: “When you are not playing in games, it is tough.
“Apart from your family, it is probably the biggest part of your life, so when it’s not going well, it does have an effect on you.
“But you just have to be confident in your ability and what has worked for you in the past.
“I have always done that and I always believe I have got a lot to offer this team. That is what I am going to focus on this weekend.”
First play second tonight and Burrow conceded: “I think it’s the final everybody wanted.
“It will generate the biggest crowd and it’ll be a great end to a fantastic, exciting season.
“In our play-offs and over in the NRL, I think rugby league generally has had a fantastic season for a number of reasons and there’s no more fitting end to it than a Leeds against Wigan final.”
Obviously, tonight also marks the final game for a trio of Leeds legends – Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai.
“It’s going to be crazy,” admitted Burrow, who scored his 200th career try in the recent Super 8s win at Hull FC.
“You can’t replace any of those three. They have all been fantastic since day one, since they arrived. You can only really just learn to cope without them.
“Thankfully, we’ve got one more game together and if there’s any way to send them off it’s with a win at the weekend.”
Leeds lost three successive games after prospering at Wembley in August but have rallied well to win at Huddersfield to take top spot and then defeat St Helens in their semi-final.
Pontefract-born Burrow added: “It has been a tough few weeks for us as a team, but, at the same time, we are battle-hardened.
“We haven’t missed a week, though we’ve had a few dips, but the last few games have been just what we needed.
“We are not battered and bruised, we are just battle-hardened, ready for this final.
“The treble is something we did aim for at the beginning of the year. Last year we got the Challenge Cup for the first time, which was great, but we ended on a sour note crashing out of the play-offs.
“So we aimed high and are one game away from that now.”