Craig Hall and Kieran Dixon will take the field for Saturday’s 1895 Cup Final with clear personal memories of past Wembley experiences.
The experienced duo – who will line up for Featherstone and York respectively at the weekend – have both been involved in Challenge Cup finals that ended in disappointment.
Hall, 33, was a non-playing member of the Hull FC squad that lost 28-16 to St Helens, the last time Saints lifted the famous trophy in 2008.
Seven years later Dixon, 28, started at fullback in the Hull Kingston Rovers team that was swept aside 50-0 by Leeds Rhinos on a record-breaking afternoon at the national stadium.
Both have long moved on from their respective experiences, but they admit that they will be in the back of their minds, and could be possible tools to help their younger team-mates, ahead of Saturday’s meeting.
Hall recalled: “I went with Hull in ’08 and didn’t play.
“I travelled down with the 21-man squad but didn’t make the final 17 or 18 to be out warming up on the field.
“As a 20-year-old it was a good experience, but disappointing not to play after I’d played in the semi-final.
“I’ll just tell the other boys to enjoy it – I’m going to enjoy every minute.”
Dixon will have a similar outlook after admitting how difficult 2015 was personally and collectively.
“I’ve had the chance to do it once before (play at Wembley), albeit with a not very good outcome,” Dixon explained.
“Now I’ve got the opportunity to do it twice and that doesn’t come around very often.
“This time I’ll be hoping to perform better than I did last time.
“It was devastating to get to the final and be blown out of the water like that; it was hard to take.“It was knowing my performance was nowhere near how I’d been playing that year either
“I was young and the nerves destroyed me on the day, but hopefully I’ve grown since then and can handle the pressure this time.”
Hall and Dixon will provide two of the main attacking threats in a fascinating clash.
On paper Featherstone are the clear favourites. They have been outstanding for much of the year to date and have racked up plenty of points along the way.
In contrast the Knights, who were widely tipped to push the top teams in the Championship this year after an eye-catching recruitment campaign, have struggled in comparison and are well off the play-off pace.
But back in May it took a long range Hall breakaway in the closing stages to earn Rovers a 16-12 win at York’s new stadium, hinting that it could be closer than some expect.
Both players are fully aware of each other’s potency with the ball.
“Hally is a strike player and a big lad who is quick on his feet,” Dixon said.
“He can strike from anywhere on the field and we need to make sure we do our best to control him as a backline.”
Hall responded: “Kieran is very elusive and can hurt you from anywhere on the field.
“If he makes a break he’s gone.
“He’s someone that can definitely change a game if it’s close, which I’m sure it will be.”
Hall himself is reading little into pre-match predictions about Rovers’ prospects, but he has seen first-hand the level of excitement in the town in the build-up to the game.
He added: “I’ve been in to do school assemblies and to mention that England are playing there on Sunday and we’ll be there six days later was amazing.
“The whole town of Featherstone is excited.
“Form wise, you’d say that we are the favourites, but on the day it’s not about form; it’s who can handle the pressure and everything about the day.”
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