Abbas Miski’s motivation for first Challenge Cup final after Tottenham disappointment for Wigan Warriors man

TWO years ago, Abbas Miski had the position that nobody wants.

He was in the changing room, out warming up and on the sidelines at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Wigan took on Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup final – but not playing the game, as 18th man.

It wasn’t wholly unexpected. At that point Miski had only played four games for the Warriors, and scored one try, since joining from London Broncos at the start of that season, with Bevan French and Liam Marshall sat ahead of him in the pecking order for wing spots.

But it was still a disappointment that drove him on to become a first-team star, as he emphatically has since.

“You want to be playing in the game,” the Lebanon international told League Express.

“It’s hard to say it feels exactly the same because it feels a lot better when you’re playing and winning.

“But it’s great to be a part of a really strong organisation that thrives on the big games and really looks forward to winning trophies.

“When you’ve been 18th man in those big games, it makes you hungrier to make the team and perform well. That’s what it’s done for me.”

Miski already had a solid reputation, after playing in the NRL for Manly Sea Eagles and scoring 18 tries in 19 Championship games for London in his debut season in England.

But is another thing breaking into one of Super League’s top squads, and Miski certainly had to be patient for his chance to shine.

He played only five further games in the remainder of that 2022 season, and didn’t feature in the opening six matches of the following campaign either.

Then a squad reshuffle saw French moved back into the spine, opening up a place in the team for Miski – and he quite literally hasn’t moved since.

He played all 26 games thereafter and started their first 15 games thus far in 2024 as well, across all competitions, before his streak was broken with a rest for last week’s dress rehearsal with Warrington.

His scoring record gives an indication as to why he has nailed down a place, notching 29 tries last term (28 in Super League to finish as top try-scorer), a contribution that went some way to earning Wigan the League Leaders’ Shield and subsequently Grand Final glory.

And a further 13 tries already this season – including one in their World Club Challenge triumph over Penrith Panthers – isn’t too bad going either.

His double helped blow away Hull KR in their Doncaster semi-final last month and tee up one of the biggest games of Miski’s career thus far.

“It was a really good performance. They are a very tough team, they beat us last year in the Challenge Cup semi and they beat us a few weeks earlier,” he reflected.

“We stuck to process really well, completed our sets and were lucky to score the amount of points that we did.

“We knew the intensity we would need to come with to beat them and we had that for the majority of the game.”

Now for Wembley, with Miski excited not only to play at the famous stadium but to properly experience all aspects of the Challenge Cup final for the first time.

He said: “There’s a big emphasis on enjoying the build-up. It’s not just the game we’re looking forward to but the week building up to it.

“The week of Wembley, travelling to London, everything that comes with the Challenge Cup final. We’re going to try and be present for it as much as we can and enjoy the moment.

“Some of the boys have played at Wembley and they tell us it’s a very different experience (to Tottenham). It’s one of the best stadiums in the world. I’m really excited to go there.”

While Miski is starring in the backs, he knows much of the most important work is done in the middle, where he believes one man in particular is standing tall for Wigan this year.

Luke Thompson has been among Super League’s top forwards since returning from the NRL, where he spent four seasons with Canterbury Bulldogs, ahead of this season and is likely to play a big role against Warrington.

“He keeps getting better and better. He’s a bit of a health freak, he really takes care of his body,” said Miski.

“He eats organic, he doesn’t stop stretching. We all joke around saying we’ve got to get on the Thommo programme! He seems to be doing something right.”

While Miski was grabbing most of the tries last season, it is other winger Marshall who has been leading the way this term, including six on their Challenge Cup run.

Even his colleague is in awe of the homegrown hero, with Miski saying: “I think he’s been excellent.

“He’s top try-scorer for a reason. If he stays injury-free he’ll keep getting those tries. He’s really good to watch.”

Watch was all Miski could do as Marshall scored the late winning try two years ago at Tottenham, but you wouldn’t bet against him being the hero this time around.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,433 (June 3, 2024)

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