HI, it’s Andy here.
Well, after a string of disappointing Super League results, I’m hoping for a turnaround in fortunes this week in the Challenge Cup at Halifax.
The Challenge Cup has a special place in my heart and has left me with more than a few great memories from my career.
I’ve played in every round of the competition, which has taken me from blustery fields in Northumbria, when I represented Newcastle University in the first and second rounds, to the Giants’ Challenge Cup final appearance against St Helens at Twickenham two years ago in front of over 65,000 people.
Thinking back to my appearances in the Cup, I can remember that every game has been one the club I have been playing for at the time took extremely seriously, and that the players always seemed to raise their game for them.
When I was at Newcastle Uni the highlight of the club’s history was the first round of the Challenge Cup in the 2000-01 season, when we beat Hunslet Warriors 36-14.
At the time the Warriors were Yorkshire Cup champions and we were just a bunch of students who loved the game, but weren’t expected to come close to the well-drilled amateurs.
However, history has shown us that Cup competitions often bring out the best in the underdog clubs.
My time at Sheffield Eagles and Hull KR both showed me how important the competition is to professional clubs as well.
Who can’t remember the shock win over Wigan at Wembley by Sheffield Eagles?
And anyone who goes to the club bar at Hull KR after a game will be reminded of the team’s Challenge Cup victory over local rivals Hull FC, because the bar, “The 10-5 suite”, is named after the final scoreline!
My favourite memories of the competition are obviously from the Giants’ semi-final win at Odsal over Leeds in 2006.
Again, we weren’t really given a chance before the game. In fact, Leeds were firm favourites, and I can remember hearing reports that the Leeds players were telling the press they were looking forward to the final already.
This lack of expectation gave us license to just go out and enjoy the occasion, and that’s exactly what we did.
That win allowed us to walk out in front of 65,000 people at Twickenham later on in the year and, although the result was disappointing, the experience has given me an even bigger desire to play on the big stage again.
Having already been there and knowing what the Cup means to all clubs, I know that it requires a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.
We will have to perform well at Halifax this week exactly because of this. They will be raising their game and hoping to create their own bit of Challenge Cup history. It’s our job to make sure they don’t.