Huddersfield’s Jordan Andrade is set to complete one of rugby league’s most unusual Challenge Cup final doubles.
The 24-year-old will carry the trophy out on to the pitch ahead Warrington Wolves clash with Hull FC on Saturday – and it will be the second time the honour has fallen to him.
Just two years ago the then Newsome Panthers player Andrade led out Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers wearing his RAF uniform – he was then serving as a weapons technician – to parade the trophy alongside a member of the army.
Two years on the job and the uniform will be the same, but things have changed for the Dalton airman – he is just completing his first season as a professional player with Salford Red Devils.
“It was a little out of the blue to be asked again, but I am still a registered airman,” said winger Andrade.
“Rugby League is very keen to promote the link with the forces and that ties in with my service in the RAF and that I am a pro player at Salford.”
All three services enter teams into the Challenge Cup competition each year and his involvement in the forces game – Andrade played in the 2013 Armed Forces World Cup – helped him make an impact and attract an offer from a Super League outfit for the 2016 season that led to him wearing the No32 shirt for the Red Devils.
“I played as a junior and amateur with Newsome Panthers before joining the RAF ranks and I played for them and also the Great Britain military forces team,” explained Andrade.
“My first year in the professional game has been a big learning curve.
“At the age of 24, given so many players have been at this level from much younger, I am a bit of a late starter and it has been an interesting ride.”
In April Andrade was loaned to Championship outfit Halifax for a month, and has then furthered his experience by joining North Wales Crusaders where he has enjoyed a regular place in the first team in League One and the Shield competition.
“I was loaned out to Halifax in April, but just a couple of games into the loan I was injured,” said Andrade.
“But since then I have come back and I am currently playing at North Wales.
“It has been a good end to the year and playing at different levels has been a massive help and given me plenty of experience of the professional game.
“As far as next season goes we will just to see how things work out.”
A Huddersfield fan as a youngster Andrade was more than a little reticent to comment on the Giants current fight to survive in Super League as his club Salford are direct rivals in the Middle 8s.
“It’s a bit dodgy really as a Salford player to say too much,” said Andrade.
“But I think it is a really tough competition this season, especially with Leigh winning their opening games.
“Everyone expects the Super League teams to do well, but Leigh really look as though they could mix things up and we will just have to see what happens.”
However, Andrade was more prepared to nail his colours to the mast when it comes to Saturday’s big day at Wembley.
“The Wembley experience was just fantastic first time round and with this season’s finalists being very popular and well-supported clubs it should be a brilliant atmosphere and event.
“I would like to see Hull win with them being a Yorkshire club and after having had such a strong season in Super League, but whatever happens it should be a great day for rugby league.”