It was a fantastic day. The first of May 1999 is a date ingrained in all Rhinos fans memories as the first Challenge Cup Final win for twenty-one years, returning the great trophy back to its rightful home at Headingley. At the time we all thought it was the start of something great, the first in a long run of success, but we were very wrong.
Julys sensational semi-final victory over solid favourites Wigan sent us back to a Challenge Cup Final for the sixth time since 1999, will it be sixth time lucky or will we be feeling more pain come 4:30 on Saturday afternoon?
Our losing final streak began on the 29th April 2000 when, due to the closure of Wembley for its impending demolition, West Yorkshire decamped to Edinburgh for a Rhinos v. Bulls final at Murrayfield. Kevin Sinfield was given the bad news that he would miss out on the final, with Andy Hay given the nod at loose forward by Manager Dean Lance. The Rhinos lost narrowly by 18-24 in a game where we were just getting the upper hand as the final hooter sounded.
Our next final was in 2003 and we again missed out, this time at the Millennium Stadium, but to the same opposition in an even narrower 20-22 loss. This was the game of the Adamson fractured cheekbone fisco, the day that McGuire was dropped from the side in favour of Rob Burrow who lasted just a few minutes before bing knocked-out, and the game where Sinfield should really have taken the two. Given his time again I am sure that he would have.
A two year gap next saw us back at the Millennium Stadium but this time as massive favourites against an unfancied Hull FC. Controversy again reigned with Barrie McDermott dropped from the seventeen in favour of an unfit Keith Senior. Senior was a passenger for the entire game, Leeds made hard work of getting and keeping a lead, Marcus Bai committed Rhinos hari-kiri with suicidal offload in his own goal area which gifted Hull a try, and Broughs drop goal on fifty-nine secured the trophy by a solitary point at 24-25.
Our last two Cup Final losses have both been back at the new Wembley and will still be the most painful recent memories for most fans.
On the 28th August 2010 we were comprehensively beaten by Saturdays opponents, Warrington Wolves. We never turned up, embarrassed ourselves, and lost by a massive 6-30. Last year it was the same outcome but a much closer game as the referee had more than a little influence in the final outcome, a Wigan Warriors victory over an unlucky Rhinos by 18-28.
On Saturday we put our trust in seventeen of our heroes, seventeen men who could write their names large in Rhinos history, seventeen men who could end our thirteen years of hurt and bring us home the trophy.
Cross everything, break out the lucky pants, and say a little prayer. This could be our time.