IT'S come to the stage where you can feel the Challenge Cup excitement running throughout the club.

In less than four days we take on St Helens in the semi-final at Warrington, and we can't wait.

I'd like to say that each and everyone of us is raring to go and is in the perfect shape to take on the Saints.

In the main, that's the case.

But with question marks still hanging over the fitness of several of our players, it's not quite all systems go.

Yet by the weekend it could be a totally different story and I'm in a position to send a full-strength side into action at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium.

And I'm certainly keeping my fingers, toes and everything else crossed that when I wake up on Sunday morning that'll be the case, because we're under no illusions as to the size of the task that awaits us against St Helens.

Nothing less than our very best will be good enough against a side of their undoubted class.

Of course, I know all about that class, having spent the past two years working under Ian Millward at Knowsley Road.

I've obviously been asked on numerous occasions if I believe having so much knowledge about St Helens will help our cause come this Sunday.

I would definitely like to think so.

I know a fair bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the majority of their squad, and what usually to expect from the players as individuals.

But it's as a team where I face the biggest challenge.

Ian Millward is a master tactician and I know he'll have a few surprises up his sleeve to try and scupper my own plans.

So far, I've come up with about four different gameplans, which I originally felt would catch Ian out.

But they've all ended up in the bin, because I've gone on to think Ian would never fall for these.

I just hope that the one I eventually draw up comes up trumps and I can have the last laugh.

And I do get the feeling that there are a lot of neutrals out there who would love us to turn Saints over.

I was overwhelmed by the turn-out of journalists from the national newspapers for our weekly press conference yesterday. It took two-and-a-half hours to answer everyone's questions.

But what was the most encouraging aspect of the conference was the level of support the club received from the assembled masses.

I think it must be something to do with the British mentality of everyone loving the underdog, because that is certainly us this weekend.

We're happy to play that role, and just wait to see what happens on Sunday.

But we will be travelling to Warrington with no shortage of confidence and with a belief that we can do it.

It's in games like this when you look to your experienced campaigners, such as Darren Fleary, Darren Turner and Brandon Costin, to take the lead.

I'm sure with them setting the right example and the others around them playing to their full potential, anything can happen. All will soon be revealed.

On a more negative note, I was gutted for my good friend Graham Steadman that Castleford Tigers decided to sack him earlier in the week.

I've known Steady for over 20 years when he was at York and I had just signed for Hull.

We even spent a time working together as sports centre assistants, and my brother Tim was a teammate of his during his time at Featherstone.

Therefore, as a family we're all feeling for Steady right now, because we all feel the decision to let him go was wrong.

I know he's a quality coach and given time would have turned things around.

He has been desperately unlucky with injuries, and I don't think there was enough consideration given to this.

It seems the daggers were out as soon as Cas lost all four of their pre-season games, and to judge him on friendlies is almost incredible. If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable.