MARTYN SADLER speaks to Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield on the eve of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup Final
Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield has never won a game at Wembley.
Or at least that’s what most people think. But if you do think that, then you’re dead wrong – Kevin has one Wembley victory to his name.
In fact he was successful the first time he ever played there.
And it was back in 1992, coincidentally the year when this year’s Wembley opponents Castleford last appeared at the national stadium.
Back then Kevin was part of the Oldham Schools team that defeated Batley and Dewsbury Schools in the battle for the Steven Mullaney Trophy – the traditional curtain-raiser between two teams of under-11s schoolboys that always precedes the Challenge Cup Final itself.
Not many of the crowd would have arrived early enough that day to witness Kevin and his mates secure a precious victory. But for Kevin himself it is an abiding memory.
“I can still remember almost everything about it. It was a wonderful occasion,” says Sinfield.
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“And one of the highlights was that we stayed in London for a couple of nights in the same hotel as the Castleford team.
“The Cas players were absolutely great with us when they returned to the hotel after the match, even though they had lost their game.
“I still have the photographs at home of players like Tawera Nikau, David Nelson, St John Ellis, Mike Ford, Graham Steadman and Martin Ketteridge mixing freely with the young kids from our team. Even though they were busy getting drunk, they did it in a nice way and gave us a lot of encouragement, although, as you can imagine, they also had other things on their mind.”
On Saturday Sinfield will be seeking his second Wembley victory, but he refuses to be too downhearted about the disappointments of the Rhinos’ long run of Challenge Cup defeats.
“We have had some good times, despite the defeats, and we have gained a lot from them,” says Sinfield.
“Everybody looks on the Cup defeats as a huge negative. But I feel very proud and privileged to have been there.
“But don’t get me wrong. I still wish we had picked that trophy up and won those games. And I am proud of leading the team out on five occasions in a Cup Final.
“The thing is that we have got off the canvas and have come back to try again.”
And as a Lancastrian from the other side of the Pennines, how does Sinfield feel to be playing a key role in the first all-Yorkshire Wembley Challenge Cup Final since 1986?
“I’m incredibly proud to play for Leeds, and I understand how important this game is for Rugby League supporters in Yorkshire,” he says.
“I just hope we can deliver them a game they will all be proud of.”
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