Leeds Rhinos legend, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, will retire at the end of the 2019 season after an incredible 20 seasons with the club – only the third player in the club’s 129-year history to achieve such a feat.
Alongside his commitments on the field, Jamie has been a valued Trustee for Leeds Rhinos Foundation and here, the charity’s Chairman, Phil Caplan, pays tribute to the Rhinos legend:
“For those of us who had the privilege of watching the great Leeds Academy side of the mid-90s, the seeds that germinated into the golden generation, you could pick out the greatness at an early age.
Kevin Sinfield was going to captain his country. Danny McGuire be an all-time leading try scorer. Rob Burrow continue to defy and terrorise defences. Ryan Bailey refuse to be intimidated and get under the skin. JJB……maybe; but he’s the one who outlasted them all.
Two years of serious groin injuries, which became a vital part of his story of overcoming and incorporating adversity saw his debut delayed, they would have most likely dampened the resolve of the less committed to a dream.
Once in first team, he became a valuable squad player but soon established himself, like fellow retiree Carl Ablett, as the backbone of the most successful Leeds side ever.
He might not be the one instantly called to mind by the fans as they listed their favourites and focussed on the glamour but for the coaches, the pair became almost the first names on the team sheet; JJB the definer of DNA and whatever that word culture means.
His close friendship with Kevin Sinfield, clearly a case of opposites attracting, was vital in shaping both but what brought the very best out of him and gave him defined purpose was the arrival of Alaimatagi Lauitiiti in the Rhinos’ dressing room.
The always seemingly serene Kiwi, who became a man mountain on the field, was just the example a strident JJB was looking for to give meaning and direction to his unstinting efforts.
Not only did he find religion, so important to him in ordering his life alongside the most patient and understanding of wives (who effectively had five boys in the house to look after) but Ali inadvertently opened up a whole new world to his new soulmate.
By his own admission, JJB had read one book up to that time, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but he went on a ceaseless quest for knowledge from wherever he could find it, becoming an absolute sponge.
He wrote increasingly perceptively and with brevity, transferred that to producing and editing tv pieces from a different creative perspective, and learned how to deliver the most poignant and deep-seated of messages, from the heart, without notes.
He loved and contributed to ‘the narrative’ and, like the best comedians – even though the material was invariably serious – told wondrous, ramshackle tales that always came back to the point.
JJB has become the single most developed, rounded, captivating human being I’ve come across in over 50 years of watching and writing about the sport, the greatest epitome of how and why it can change lives and people.
The on-field success, the rings and medals, will always speak for themselves but the transformation in him has been truly astonishing and a privilege to witness.
Which is why there are no limits to where he can go next. With the self-taught skills, he can be whoever he wants; club and city ambassador, foundation trustee, school governor, inspiring in front of any company, be that sponsor or trade delegation.
He’ll be missed in the refining of battle, but as he so often alludes to about the process, has emerged as a diamond. If I was head of Leeds City Council, I’d make him the next mayor.