As a kid, every lad who is interested in rugby knows of the Challenge Cup Final. You either dream of scoring a length of the field try on the hallowed turf or watching your team lift the cup. I used to sit with my dad every year and watch the Challenge Cup Final as a little'un, before I started going for real. Ever since a little child, it ranked amongst the other top sporting events such as the FA cup Final, the Grand National, Wimbledon etc etc.
Memories that stand out for me are the Sheffield Eagles beating a Wigan side that felt they only needed to turn up. Martin Offiah scoring the try that even today people still echo Ray French’s thoughts with it being "ranked among the finest ever seen on this ground”. Also Leroy Rivett’s four tries at ‘the old Wembley’. All these fond memories is an accumulation of what is the pure magic of the Challenge Cup.
I honestly do not believe that the gloss has gone off the cup, the majority still want to lift the cup at Wembley. Now, there were some exciting cup finals at Murrayfield, Cardiff, and some not so exciting cup finals at Twickenham, but no one can really argue that where every Leeds, Warrington and several neutral rugby fans are going to be on Saturday is where everyone wants the final to be.
The Challenge Cup Final is steeped in tradition, and it's just that, a cup for the traditionalists, and Wembley is its home. For the past few seasons, I cannot honestly say I have seen the final been hyped up like this one. This final unlike the others at the New Wembley so far has no clear favourite. You could probably just toss a coin, but the bookies have us favourites probably due to the big game mentality and our hunger and desire to win the cup that has eluded us for far too long.
The prestige of the cup has been talked about but now, all that’s left is the prediction of the game. For me, our forwards, each and everyone one of them, have to play at the top of their game. Warrington have a first class team from 1 to 17, but we need to lay the platform and foundations for the big game players of Sinfield and McGuire to strut their stuff. The selection headache for Bluey is not one most people would want to have to deal with, but whatever he decides to go along with, we all hope it is enough to win the challenge cup after 11 years. Clarkson for me like most fans is a must, but wasn't McGuire at Cardiff back in 2003?
I am toying with the idea of Smith as a utility back. I hope Senior can just show Atkins one more time that he his still the number 1 centre of super league.
With cup finals come talking points, before and after games. Remember the Radlinski gamble that paid off? Remember the Senior one that didn’t? I’m surprised the Peacock rumours have not gathered more pace. Maybe, it was just that, a complete stab in the dark rumour.
So there it is, my preview, and I’m going to stick my neck out and go for an Ali Lauiti'iti length of the field break giving it to McGuire to run under the sticks, followed by a Sinfield penalty then a Sinfield drop goal to win the match by 3 points. I’m also predicting Sinfield to say at the final whistle “This crop of players stay at this club for fond memories and silverware, not for money and all the rumours on rlfans regarding me going to Warrington was Bull”.
Enjoy the game, and lets hope it’s an absolute cracker, and that Rugby league is once again the overall winner.