Leeds captain Kruise Leeming admits it would be an “unbelievable” feeling to write his name into the history books and lift the Grand Final trophy; watch the Grand Final between Leeds and St Helens on Sky Sports Arena and Main Event from 5pm on Saturday (6pm kick-off)
By Megan Wellens
Last Updated: 23/09/22 1:01pm
To captain the Leeds Rhinos comes with an equal measure of pressure and privilege and Kruise Leeming knows what it would mean to etch his name into the history books on Saturday.
Born in Swaziland – the country now called Eswatini – Leeming has forged a remarkable journey from being a young boy in Halifax to the captaincy of Leeds Rhinos and that story could reach its pinnacle on Saturday when he leads his side out at Old Trafford.
The Leeds Rhinos players celebrated with their fans after reaching the Super League Grand Final
After taking over the captaincy this season, Leeming could see his name etched next to the likes of legendary captains Danny McGuire and Kevin Sinfield in Leeds Rhinos folklore.
However, for Leeming to have played just one game in the English competition was achievement enough and he “can’t quite picture” what it would be like to lift the Grand Final trophy at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. “It would mean a lot to me and I think, as a kid that was born in Swaziland and came over to England to even play a game is a massive achievement,” he said.
Leeming talks about family, Black rugby league icons, and how Leeds and all the teams have created a change in culture in the last two years
“So, to go on and captain the great club of Leeds with such a rich history and the types of people who have played for Leeds and captained them is an achievement in itself.
“To go on and lift the Grand Final trophy would be unbelievable, really unbelievable and something that I can’t quite picture at the minute.”
Time to savour the moment
With a Grand Final appearance comes a wave of emotions and an anticipation for the big day to arrive but for Leeming, as he sits in the stands of Old Trafford in the build-up to the big occasion, he is “taking in” the experience.
“I feel like we are very focused and it goes without saying, there has been no talk around we need to be good this week or any of that because everybody knows what is at stake,” he added.
“I feel like it is really calm, (coach) Rohan (Smith) brings a calming influence into camp anyway, he is really laid back so that has been the theme since he got here.
“We are trying to not peak too early. That is the worst thing you can do in big events like this, big occasions.
“We need to just build up nice and gradually and enjoy everything, we don’t want to wish time away either.
“We are sat here now in an empty stadium and that is something to take in, to be at Old Trafford at the pitch and there is nobody on it and nobody is watching it, that is a really unique experience that some people will never get to do either.
“So I am just taking everything in my stride as well as the lads.”
The greatest comeback in Super League history?
The most remarkable aspect of the Rhinos’ story this season is that they were at one stage heavily tipped for relegation and sitting second from bottom of the Super League table, the Leeds faithful watching on desperately as their side could not find a victory.
Highlights of the Super League semi-final between Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos
With immense pride in how his side stuck together through tough periods, Leeming believes the Rhinos are now seeing the fruits of their labour and, if his side can bring home the win, it will go down as “the greatest achievement in rugby league”.
“I think to say we are not looking at that narrative of it would be a lie, but in terms of the narrative of the history and who is walking them out and who lifts the trophy is something that we won’t look at.
“To come from where we have, this could be the greatest-ever achievement in rugby league for us to come from 11th to win the Grand Final, it would be an amazing feeling.
“But the most pleasing thing to me as a captain and the boys is the way we have stuck together, no one has fallen out because you would have forgiven some people for putting their cue in the rack and saying ‘this season is over’.
“But we have never done that and I was always saying in interviews ‘we are getting there, we are getting there’ and it was hard for people to believe week in, week out.
“We were working so hard and not getting the fruits of our labour but we eventually started to get it and I think this group deserves to win.”
One final hurdle….
The stage is set for the Yorkshire side but there is a big task ahead of them – a St Helens side looking to claim a record-breaking fourth Grand Final victory in a row.
Highlights of the Betfred Super League semi-final between St Helens and Salford Red Devils
With “form out of the window”, it will be a brilliant spectacle between two sides leaving it all out there to be crowned champions and Leeming admits they face a “brilliant team” in the hunt for that glory.
“We know on the day it is going to be a tough game, it would be a tough game against anyone,” he said.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the league who we could have played and thought we were going to win.
“I don’t think anyone who has played in a Grand Final has thought it is an easy win.
Live Betfred Super League
September 24, 2022, 5:00pm
“I don’t think momentum plays a part in a Grand Final.
“I think form goes out of the window and those people saying Saints haven’t been as good as they have been, they are in a Grand Final.
“They are brilliant, a really brilliant team and it will take a lot to beat them.”