The St Helens captain, James Roby, has called on his side to ignore their Challenge Cup drought and focus solely on Saturday’s semi-final with Hull, as the reigning Super League champions look to take another step closer to a first cup success in 13 years this weekend.
Roby, the last Saints player still in the side from the last time they won the Challenge Cup in 2008, admits it has been too long a wait for a club of their stature. However, the 35-year-old believes any obsessing over that record this weekend could contribute to their undoing.
“It’s been a long time between drinks for a club of this size,” he said. “We’re associated with success, and we’re aware of that pressure as a squad. We know that, but the main thing is to concentrate on the job at hand on Saturday, and that’s beating Hull FC. We have to get that out of the way before worrying about anything else. We all want to win the Challenge Cup, but I don’t want to start making an issue of the record. It’s done now, it’s in the past.”
The Saints face Hull in the first semi-final on Saturday, before Castleford take on Warrington in the second half of a men’s double-header at Leigh Sports Village. Before that, the Women’s Challenge Cup final between St Helens and York takes place, broadcast on UK TV for the first time.
Steve Price leaves Warrington at the end of the season and will be replaced by his opposite number on Saturday afternoon, the current Castleford incumbent, Daryl Powell. The Tigers are yet to win a major trophy in Powell’s seven years at the club, having lost the Challenge Cup final in 2014, and the 2017 Grand Final, both to Leeds.
Castleford were beaten 60-6 at home by the Rhinos last Friday, leaving Powell in no doubt that Warrington are “massive, massive favourites” for their semi-final. However, he wants his players to use the emotion surrounding the likely break-up of his squad – with several expected to follow him to Warrington in 2022 – to spur them to a first major trophy together.
“There’s some emotional people here for different reasons,” he said. “There’s people who won’t play at Castleford after this year and there’s a lot of emotion. I wanted to bring that out and recognise what we stand for and we use the emotion as motivation moving forward. We haven’t really won a big one yet, and that’s something we would dearly like to change in these next few weeks.”