It’s the Challenge Cup final between Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves at Wembley on Saturday. Are you looking forward to watching it?
To be honest, I may be giving it a miss!
After all the events of the past month or so, I’m actually looking forward to having a weekend away with the wife and trying to re-charge the batteries ahead of the rest of the season.
But I will obviously be watching the final at some stage, because we play Warrington the following week and then Leeds the week after that.
So my big hope this weekend is that they knock 10 bells out of each other, and they all break!
But whatever they do, I’m sure it’ll be a good game between two good teams, with the final outcome pretty difficult to predict.
My head tells me it’s going to be Warrington, because Leeds have one or two important people missing, but my heart says the Rhinos.
That’s down to the fact I’ve played alongside (coach) Brian McDermott, (assistant coach) James Lowes and Jamie Peacock, and I’ve also coached Darrell Griffin and Shaun Lunt at the Giants.
I also want Leeds to win because I’m a proud Yorkshireman!
Do you feel it’s an advantage playing a team so soon after they’ve played in a Challenge Cup final at Wembley?
That’s always been a subject for debate, and it’s hard to know for sure.
But win, lose or draw, I’m sure both teams will have the odd beer or two, which is bound to impact on their preparation for the following game.
Having said that, Warrington and Leeds are no strangers to playing in Wembley Cup finals and then having to back-up.
One or both of them has been involved in a final for the past four years.
So I’m sure the staff and coaches at the clubs know exactly how to keep their players’ feet on the ground after such a big occasion and ensure they’re in the best shape, both physically and mentally, for the games that follow.
As I said, yes, we will take a close look at Warrington next week and Leeds the week after that.
But, again, I can’t emphasise strongly enough how the main issue for us is looking at what we do rather than what the opposition do and what shape they may be in.
They key for us is obviously making sure we improve, with catching skills now top of the agenda.
We know if we improve that and give ourselves a 50-50 opportunity with the ball, we’re a match for anyone.
Against Bradford, they completed 16 more sets than us because of the amount of ball we spilt, and that can equates to having to make 96 more tackles than the opposition.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that we ended up losing the energy battle, because defending does take its toll on a team.
I want to make it clear that’s not an excuse why we lost, it’s the reason, and we need to do something about it.
Because of the Cup final, you’ll have the weekend off. How different has the week been for you?
We’ve been in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and today, and I can promise you that by tonight they’ll all be extremely fatigued.
We did the usual review stuff on Monday, then on Tuesday we did a skills session that was really sharp.
It made the players have to think about what they were doing and maintain their concentration throughout.
Yesterday, we were at Rawthorpe Boxing Club for a very tough session with (coach) Mark Reynolds.
I’ve got an awful lot of time for Mark, he’s a good fella and he always does good stuff with the boys.
I’m hoping this is the start of a strong link between the two of us.
Besides the senior squad going to the gym, we’re also looking to send some of the junior teams down there, which I know won’t be a problem, because Mark’s so accommodating.
What I like about this boxing training is that it gets the players out of their comfort zone, and there’s no harm at all in that.
And today, it’s a trip to Southport to train on the sands.
Yes, they’re going to the beach, but they all know it’s going to be no holiday!
In fact, quite the opposite.
I know they’ll enjoy the day away together, and the change of scene will help freshen them up.
But the sand can be quite an unforgiving surface, as the boys are about to find out!
They’ll then be giving Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, which I can guarantee they’re all going to need.
And they’ve been told they won’t be able to jet all over the place, because they’ll be back in early next week.
Finally, do you think the weekend off has come at the right time?
Yes, I do.
I think we saw against Bradford that Danny Brough hadn’t been able to train much with us after his dead leg, while the same could be said of Larne Patrick following his back spasm.
Those two will clearly benefit from the break, as will several other players who are also carrying knocks.
On top of that, last week’s defeat showed there are a lot of areas that need patching up.
That work is already well under way.