Opinion: Huby not the first Wembley fitness gamble
Gavin Miller in 1986, Kris Radlinski in 2000, Keith Senior in 2005. All players who went into a Challenge Cup Final with a massive question mark over their fitness, and this pretty illustrious list can add another member to the club – Castleford’s Craig Huby.
The fitness of Huby has been perhaps the biggest talking point of all heading into the Challenge Cup Final this weekend, with the forward looking like making a miraculous recovery from a dislocated elbow less than two weeks after sustaining the injury.
He’s been named in Daryl Powell’s 19-man squad for the game on Saturday, meaning he will likely get the nod to play, given how Castleford are devoid of the services of Grant Millington, who is sidelined with injury himself. And it’s because of the injury to Millington that Huby will almost certainly turn out at Wembley this Saturday.
But as we’ve touched upon, he is far from the first man to be going into a Wembley final with people pondering over their fitness. Let’s take a look at some other stars that defied the injury odds to turn out on the big stage for their team – with contrasting results throughout.
Gavin Miller (Hull Kingston Rovers, 1986)
Hull KR loose forward Gavin Miller is the first man we’re looking at who has ‘done a Craig Huby’, having played in a Challenge Cup Final whilst nursing an injury. But unlike Huby, who was injured a good two weeks before the final, Miller pulled his hamstring on the eve of the 1986 final against Castleford Tigers – immediately making him a massive doubt for the game. However, he came through to play in the game – but his left thigh was incredibly heavily strapped. It was quickly apparent that he was struggling when the game kicked-off, and the Robins would on to lose 15-14.
Andy Gregory and Shaun Edwards (Wigan Warriors, 1990); Ellery Hanley (Wigan Warriors, 1990 and 91)
1990 didn’t just see one player infamously take a gamble on their fitness heading into a Challenge Cup Final – defending champions Wigan risked THREE of their big stars against Warrington, giving them pain-killing injections to get them through. Ellery Hanley (pelvis), Andy Gregory (groin) and Shaun Edwards (broken hand) were all in some doubt as the big day approached against Warrington, but they all played through the pain barrier as Wigan defended the cup successfully, beating their opponents 36-14.
Amazingly, Hanley would again need to come through a late fitness scare to play the following year, as he was patched up to star for Wigan in their 13-8 win against St Helens in 1991. Hanley had torn a thigh muscle in the weeks leading up to the final, and was seen testing his leg on the pitch before the game.
Kris Radlinski (Wigan Warriors, 2002)
Whenever the 2002 Challenge Cup Final between Wigan and St Helens is mentioned, thoughts immediately turn to the heroics of Kris Radlinski. The full-back spent the week prior to the final in hospital, due to a badly swollen foot – believed to be from an insect bite. He only decided he would be fit to play 90 minutes before kick-off, after consultation with Wigan’s club doctor. It was a move that would pay dividends – not only did the Warriors win, but Radlinski was awarded the prestigious Lance Todd trophy. His performance was dominated by a superb defensive display as the Warriors defeated their arch rivals at Murrayfield.
Keith Senior (Leeds Rhinos, 2005)
Perhaps the most high-profile fitness gamble in recent years came via the Leeds Rhinos, and star centre Keith Senior. In the week prior to the final, Senior injured his ankle and was immediately regarded as a huge doubt for the final against Hull FC. However, he came through late fitness tests to take his place on the field but, like Gavin Miller in 1986, was quickly noted to be struggling. He eventually had to leave the field at half-time, and watch on as Hull FC upset the odds to get their hands on the trophy.