FROM Spa Field in Slaithwaite to the Galpharm Stadium to take on the Super League leaders in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup!
That’s how far Darren Hawkyard has come in the space of two short years.
In 2010, the 27-year-old back-row forward was leading Slaithwaite Saracens’ charge in the Pennine League.
But on Sunday, Hawkyard will line up alongside younger brother Ritchie for Co-operative Championship club Swinton Lions as they face the might of in-form Huddersfield Giants at the Galpharm with a place in the quarter-finals of rugby league’s most famous knockout competition at stake.
The older Hawkyard has played at the stadium before – in a junior curtain-raiser for Deighton against Moldgreen ahead of Huddersfield’s first game at their new ground in 1994.
And as an avid supporter of his hometown club, it doesn’t get much better than that!
But the excited Hawkyard knows that will all change this weekend when he goes head-to-head against the club he has followed all his life.
He’s well aware challenges don’t come much tougher than this, but he’s determined to make sure the highlight of his career so far doesn’t end in massive disappointment.
“Many of the Swinton lads would have preferred a Super League side at home, but not me!” said Hawkyard.
“I honestly don’t think anything will beat this weekend. It’s going to be amazing experience walking out at the Galpharm Stadium and coming up against the club I’ve supported all my life.
“And what makes it even more exciting is that I’ll be testing myself against players who have achieved almost everything there is to achieve in the game.
“I obviously don’t know what the Giants side will be yet, but there’s a fair chance I could be playing opposite a former Australia Test player in Luke O’Donnell or David Fa’alogo, who’s won a World Cup with New Zealand.
“I just can’t wait!
“At the same time, I know it could be a difficult afternoon for us.
“But as long as we compete and play to our full potential, we’ve got to be happy with that.
“Even though we’ve only won one of our opening five games in the Championship so far, we are improving on a weekly basis and finding our feet at this level after being promoted last season.
“Last week, we only lost to Featherstone after conceding a late converted try, the week before that we hammered Gateshead in the Cup (70-10) and before that beat Batley, who are obviously no mugs and gave the Giants a real scare in last season’s competition.
“So we’re not going to the Galpharm low on confidence right now. We’re going there to enjoy the experience and give it our best shot, because we know we’ve got nothing to lose.
“I want it to be a day I‘ll never want to forget.”
Hawkyard is also hoping the Huddersfield amateur rugby league family will come out in force to support the brothers who have been associated with the local scene for so many years.
“We’ve obviously got a long association with the game at amateur level, most notably through our time with Slaithwaite and Underbank,” he added.
“As a result, I hope a lot of people from the town will come out and support us this weekend. I know a lot from Slaithwaite are going to be behind us, and it’d be nice to think other clubs will jump on board.
“And I’d like to think what I’m now doing in the game will provide a boost for others playing the game at the amateur level.
“Most players playing the game at professional or semi-professional level tend to come through a club’s Academy system.
“But in my case, I opted to remain playing at the amateur level while I studied to become a civil engineer.
“As a result, I didn’t decide to have a crack with Swinton until I was 25, once I was fully qualified and got a couple of years’ work under my belt.
“So I hope my route through to the semi-professional game will encourage other ambitious amateur players that not gaining an Academy contract is the end of their dreams.
“I’m the playing proof for that, because I’ll be living the dream this weekend!”