As they aim for their first piece of silverware in six years at Wembley this weekend, Warrington captain Chris Hill believes their season of struggle in 2017 has strengthened their position to compete on the major stage again.
Hill’s Warrington side were embroiled in an unlikely battle against relegation this time 12 months ago, but this weekend, they face Catalans at Wembley looking to win the Challenge Cup for a ninth time.
And Hill admits it was difficult throughout large periods of 2017 – but having emerged through the other side of it, they are stronger for the turmoil of last year.
“Turning up to training was hard because we weren’t winning,” said the Warrington captain.
“But sometimes you have to have those years to appreciate the other years and get better and make changes. And that’s what we did as a club.
“Being in the bottom four was a shock. We went through it and you could probably say it changed people’s mindsets.
“The lads didn’t want to be in it this year. It teaches you lessons as well, how close you can actually be to being out of a job.
“It makes you stronger. It was hard going through it, it was hard as a family, people just think of you but you’ve still got a mum and dad who have to sit there and take the flak and people shouting at their son. It’s hard for your missus sitting there with the kids.
“The abuse is natural. At the end of the day, the fans pay their money and they’ve got their say. I think it makes you stronger.”
As a veteran of numerous cup finals, Hill also admits the cup final and Wembley still stirs the emotions more than any other experience he’s had as a rugby player.
“At the end of the day, you don’t do this forever. You’ve got to enjoy it because it’s the real world out there,” he said.
“These are the games you play rugby league for. This is why you do six o’clock in the morning in January when it’s raining and still dark and you’re rolling around in mud or climbing hills.”