Swinton hoping for a Wembley debut

Swinton Lions director of development Damian Ridpath says a first-ever Wembley appearance for the 155-year-old club would be “massive”.

Stuart Littler’s side are 80 minutes away from booking a trip there in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, the RFL’s knockout competition for non-Super League teams.

The final will be staged as part of a double-header with the Challenge Cup showpiece on Saturday, July 17.

In the semi-finals on the weekend of June 5/6, Swinton head to York while Featherstone host Widnes, who were beaten by Sheffield in the 2019 final.

The Lions were recently beaten 64-16 at home by the Knights in the Championship, and both Ridpath and Littler know winning at the new LNER Community Stadium is a tall order.

But, as Ridpath says, there is plenty of incentive above and beyond the players getting the chance to tread the world-famous Wembley turf.

“Out of the four semi-finalists, we’re the only club who haven’t played there,” he said.

“The last time Swinton won the Challenge Cup, in 1928, was the last final before the switch to Wembley, and the last time we made the final, against Leeds in 1932, it was switched to Wigan because there was a football match at Wembley.

“Getting to play there would be massive for our supporters and massive for us as a club.

“As a club, we are ambitious and working hard to grow. We will go from being a one-team club to having sides at every level, including women’s and disability, within 18 months.

“Engaging with the community, both in our traditional areas of support and farther afield, is a big thing for us.

“We know we have a lot of latent fans who we would love to re-engage with, and being based in Greater Manchester means we have 500,000 people within easy travelling distance of our ground (Heywood Road at Sale).

“Our work will continue whatever happens, but getting to Wembley would provide a great platform for us to build on.”

Meanwhile, Featherstone coach James Webster says he is happy to get a home draw as he aims to get Rovers to the national stadium for the first time since 1983, when Rovers beat Hull FC 14-12 in the Challenge Cup Final.

“A home draw is all you can ask for in any cup competition,” he said.

Featherstone were beaten 22-16 at Widnes in the second round of the inaugural 1895 Cup two seasons ago.

The competition was put on hold last year because of the pandemic, with a compacted fixture list meaning this year’s version was slimmed down to the winners of the four ties in the second round of the Challenge Cup, the stage before Super League sides entered.

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