By Andy Gilder|
August Bank Holiday weekend.
Traditionally a time for many Rhinos fans to plan a few days away with the family, get that gardening done youíve been putting off all summer or just put your feet up and enjoy the extended break from work.
Oh, and the Challenge Cup Final.
Not that the gameís traditional showpiece occasion has held much interest recently for those Loiners who havenít been tempted through the doors of their local Ladbrokes (other bookmakers are available).
After four finals in seven years - three of which ended in disappointment Ė maybe the fates decided it was time to give us a break from the tension and despair. Maybe the focus shifted within the club when it became apparent that the 2004 Grand Final success wasnít a flash in the pan and they could become genuine, regular contenders for the Super League title.
Whatever the cause, it created a space in the calendar where fans knew they would be untroubled by changing kick-off times, queues for tickets and travel arrangements.
The noises coming out of Headingley over the last couple of years about the competition have been louder and more confident, indicating that the Cup had risen higher on the list of priorities than it had in the past. It remains the one trophy over this golden period for the club which has eluded their grasp, the space in the trophy cabinet waiting to be filled.
In recent years there have been false dawns and televised embarrassments (Huddersfield at Odsal anyone?) but finally Leeds are one sparkling 80 minute performance away from the most glittering of prizes.
There is a vibe around the place not dissimilar to 1994, where an Ellery Hanley inspired Leeds ended a 16 year wait to return to the Twin Towers. On that occasion a dominant Wigan side was always going to be too good, too experienced in the big games, too many match winners all across the park.
This time around though, the odds are more even. Warrington have been more consistent over the course of the season, while Leeds picked up a morale boosting victory at the Halliwell Jones earlier in the season.
Leeds know what it takes to win the tight encounters in major finals, something Warrington are still learning. The Rhinos will undoubtedly be weakened by the loss of Jamie Peacock, but other players have come in through the course of the season and shown they can step up to the mark. Itís time for them to do so again.
Just this once, the gardening can wait.