Written by Callum Walker
Although making his name for Leeds Rhinos in the Super League, Keith Senior began his career at Sheffield Eagles, debuting in 1994 aged 18. He was signed from Rugby Union side Huddersfield YMCA by Eagles’ owner Gary Hetherington in what was the South Yorkshire side’s tenth season as a Rugby League side.
Senior – who operated as a centre – spent six seasons with Sheffield, playing 140 games and scoring 56 tries. The sandy-haired, turned bald, three-quarter was part of Sheffield’s golden moment, playing at centre as the Eagles humbled Wigan 17-8 in the 1998 Challenge Cup Final which is often considered the greatest upset in the competition’s history.
The last game of the 1999 Super League, Senior left Sheffield for Leeds and debuted on the same day.
In 2000, then 24 years old, the centre finished as Super League’s top try-scorer with 18 and would go on to score an impressive 171 tries in 365 appearances over a period of 12 years.
Huddersfield-born Senior was part of Leeds’ dominance in the 2000s, playing a major role as Leeds ended their 32-year wait for the title in 2004 with victory over Bradford at Old Trafford. By this time, he held the record of playing the most Super League rounds of any player, with 223 out of a possible 237. He would add a World Club Challenge winners’ medal to his locker in 2005, but more success was just around the corner.
For three consecutive seasons, the Rhinos triumphed in the Super League Grand Final (2007, 2008 and 2009) and the tough number four was a part of each victory. And, during the 2009 season, Senior became the first player to reach 500 Super League appearances, firmly etching his name in the history books.
By the end of 2010, Senior had also racked up his fifth Super League Dream Team appearance.
The centre was supposed to leave Leeds at the end of 2011 to join Welsh side Crusaders RL. However, it was announced that the Crusaders had withdrawn from Super League less than a month after the seasoned veteran had signed. As such, the number four retired from the game soon after aged 35.
When Senior left the game, he held the record for the most Super League appearances (413) as well as the record for the most Super League tries (199), until overtaken by St Helens’ Paul Wellens and his former team mate Danny McGuire respectively in 2012.
As a tough and uncompromising character, Senior was a perfect candidate for the national squad. He made ten appearances for England, scoring two tries and 33 for Great Britain, scoring 12 tries with his last representative appearance coming in 2008 for England.
Senior was an incredibly physical and skilful centre. At 6 ft 3 and just under 100kg, he had the strength to cause havoc out wide and he often left his opposite number clutching at thin air. His ability to offload and take a number of defenders with him, often carved out space for his winger to exploit. There was no surprise therefore, that the likes of Marcus Bai, Scott Donald and Ryan Hall scored so many tries with the uncompromising centre inside.
Senior’s impact was not just felt on the Rugby League field, but also locally. In 2009 Arriva Yorkshire asked local members of the public to nominate the 13 best ever Rugby League players to have played in West Yorkshire as the ‘Arriva Yorkshire Rugby League Dream Team’. Senior was one of the final 13. As such, the centre’s name was etched on one of Arriva’s new buses.