Trebles are a rare enough thing in team sport, but it is hard to believe that five years have now passed since Leeds Rhinos became only the third team in the Super League era to win one.
Brian McDermott coached the Headingley outfit to a third Grand Final win in just four years, yet it was the imperious nature in which they stormed to all major honours in English rugby league that lives long in the memory.
Leeds scored tries for fun with nine different players crossing at least a dozen times in all competitions, led by Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins who both managed 20 or more. In Super League, they racked up 758 points during the regular season – 160 more than closest challengers St Helens.
In terms of wins, draws and losses, the Rhinos earned 16 victories, suffered just six defeats and had a single draw. Leeds finished a point ahead of Saints which brought the League Leaders’ Shield with it and, despite losing in the Super 8s to them, later eliminated that opposition in the playoffs.
Only Wigan Warriors stood between McDermott’s boys and history in the Grand Final. This followed strong shows in the Challenge Cup where the Rhinos smashed local rivals Huddersfield Giants, then knocked Hull FC out in the quarter-finals and St Helens in the semis.
Hull KR were then obliterated 50-0 in the final at Wembley thanks to Tom Briscoe and his five-try haul. The former Hull FC wing was clearly motivated for this fixture with Kingston Rovers who were left embarrassed and humiliated.
Come the Grand Final, Leeds edged Wigan 22-20 at Old Trafford with a Danny Maguire first-half double proving crucial as the Treble was sealed. Although the Rhinos have since gone on to win Super League again in 2017, this proved something of a watershed.
It was certainly the end of an era at Headingley as, following their historic Treble triumph, some senior figures in the dressing room departed. Forward pair Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock retired, while captain Kevin Sinfield switched codes to finish his playing career as a fly half in in rugby union.
Difficulties with replacing these characters and leaders has been part of the reason why following-up on such success has been so challenging. Odds of 8/1 in the MansionBet rugby league betting on this year’s Super League reflect that Leeds have some ground to make up on Saints and Wigan right now.
However, Rhinos have reached yet another Challenge Cup final and are favourites to beat Salford Red Devils at Wembley, so this campaign may not be entirely without silverware. Ash Handley has scored plenty of tries and is living up to the number five jersey he inherited from Hall.
Leeds’ Treble vintage stands apart from any other side in the club’s modern history. Following on from Bradford Bulls in 2003 and the St Helens side of 2006, it may be some time before we see their like again as rugby league focuses on survival.