First published in League Express, Monday 19th Aug 2013
The bookmakers are not taking a great deal of notice of the form book when it comes to forecasting the winner of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup Final.
The best odds you can find on Wigan, at the time of writing (Sunday evening) is 1/3, while the best odds for Hull FC are 3/1.
In a two-horse race, when the outsider is priced so generously, it may be worth a flutter.
But do Hull have a serious chance of beating Wigan?
The first thing to say is that we can, as the bookmakers realise, ignore recent results.
Wigan may have lost 22-8 in Perpignan to the Catalan Dragons on Saturday.
But last year Warrington were beaten 62-18 by London Broncos a week before the Challenge Cup Final. It was perhaps the shock result of the season.
And yet a week later they comfortably defeated Leeds 35-18 at Wembley.
I have no doubt that if Wigan play at their very best, which we’ve seen them doing in several matches this season, with by far the best use of dummy runners in the competition, then they should be too hot for Hull.
But that can’t be guaranteed. There have been plenty of occasions when the favourites didn’t win at Wembley.
Hull have some niggling injury problems, and there is talk that they may be tempted to give a run to some players, including Tom Lineham, who are carrying knocks.
My advice to Peter Gentle is to not even think about playing someone who isn’t fully fit.
The history of Challenge Cup Finals is littered with stories of players who came into the game carrying niggles, and whose selection proved to be disastrous.
Think of Keith Senior at Cardiff in 2005, or Gavin Miller for Hull KR at Wembley in 1986, or Bill Ashurst for Wakefield in 1979, all of them great players who shouldn’t have played in those games.
There’s a lesson to be learned, and I hope that both Challenge Cup Final coaches have learned it.
Mysteries of the Mind
There was some marvellous imagery at Headingley on Friday night.
The tribute to the Rhinos’ former coach Graham Murray was very well done, with Graham’s wife Amanda and her daughter Carla taking the applause of the Headingley faithful, as Amanda was comforted by Castleford coach Daryl Powell, who worked as Graham’s assistant during the two years he was at the club.
And the players were wearing their State of Mind training tops as part of the dedication of the weekend’s games to this noble cause.
No one ever wants to see another tragedy of a player taking his own life, as Terry Newton did three years ago.
It’s a sobering thought that if the State of Mind campaign had been in place when Terry ended his own life, someone may have recognised his despair and been able to do something to prevent his terrible loss.
I’m fortunate in never having been affected by depression, at least as far as I know.
But current and former players like Danny Sculthorpe, Eorl Crabtree, Kirk Dixon and Paul Wood have all recently revealed how they have been affected by the condition.
The progress made by the campaign is a great tribute to Terry’s memory.
A great week’s TV
Sometimes the people who schedule Rugby League games for TV manage to select the right games, even if they might not have appeared to be the right ones before the kick-off.
After Widnes’ abject display at Hull a couple of weeks ago, and then their home defeat to Castleford last Sunday, who would have imagined that they would be any sort of a threat to Warrington last Thursday night?
I dare say that quite a few people may have decided to not switch on, fearing that the game would be one-sided.
And, after Hep Cahill’s dismissal just before half-time, some viewers may have switched off, believing that the Wolves were bound to slaughter the undermanned Vikings in the second half.
Widnes played magnificently, and defended superbly to keep the Wolves scoreless in the second half, scoring two superbly created tries themselves.
The game was won by Jack Owens’ second try, which was created initially by a great step by fullback Rhys Hanbury, with Joe Mellor in support kicking superbly to the corner.
It was a beauty, and if Widnes can play like that again then they can rise up the table in the last couple of weeks of the season.
The only negative was the behaviour of some of their supporters.
I hope that the club, and the RFL, come down on the troublemakers like a ton of bricks.
We also had two more excellent TV games last week, starting with the Championship One clash between Rochdale and Oldham at Spotland.
The standard was excellent, and if that’s the quality of Rugby League on offer at that level, I suspect a lot of fans will get down to some of those matches.
And the following night at Headingley we had another thriller, with some of Hull KR’s younger players making a big impact.
The more I see of Adam Walker, the more impressed I am.
He must be a genuine contender to win the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year award.
If licensing has done nothing else, it has allowed our clubs to introduce some wonderful young talent in the last couple of years.
I hope we don’t lose that when the leagues are reorganised.