Challenge Cup 2013: Wigan and Hull Coaches Have Points to Prove at Wembley
The road to Wembley was a well-worn path for Wigan Warriors supporters between 1988 and 1995.
The DW Stadium club became the annual Challenge Cup winners during those halcyon years, winning the trophy a record eight times in succession. The Lancashire side took up residency in North London when they defeated Halifax 32-12, with legendary names such as Joe Lydon, Ellery Hanley, Shaun Edwards and Andy Gregory all in the starting lineup.
The Warriors were rarely troubled in the Wembley showpiece during that period of dominance, but they have only won the cup twice since the 1995 victory over Leeds. However, as they approach the Tetley's Challenge Cup final against Hull on Saturday, hopes are high that another period of dominance will follow.
For Wigan head coach Shaun Wane, the opportunity to restore his hometown club to those previous heights is too great a temptation to resist.
The former Wigan forward was promoted from his assistant role to succeed Michael Maguire in October 2011 after the Australian returned to his homeland, with Iestyn Harris becoming No. 2 to Wane.
Wane was part of the Wigan squad between 1981 and 1990, but his only Challenge Cup experience with his hometown club came from coming off the bench against Halifax in 1988.
His hopes of featuring in the 1985 final against Hull, when Wigan saw off a spirited comeback to win 28-24, were hit by a knee injury picked up in the semifinal, as he told Neil Barker of the Manchester Evening News.
It was a great rugby league game, one of the best ever, but it was a bitter-sweet one for me.
It was enjoyable as a game but I did feel a bit sorry for myself. I really wanted to play, it was really important to me.
I got a medal but I didn’t want to keep it because I didn’t think I’d earned it. I gave it them back. It was a tough one to handle.
But it is not just personal pride that will see Wane, 48, determined to lift the trophy for Wigan.
Club owner Ian Lenagan took up the option this week to extend the coach's contract to 2014, and he has vowed to lengthen it even further if Wigan can lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley on Saturday, according to BBC Sport.
If Shaun wins at Wembley it will be longer than a one-year extension, that's for sure.
He's a great 'Wiganer', he's done well to get us where we are and he's just got to win a few trophies now.
It was quite amusing to hear all these rumours with New Zealand Warriors when we'd already agreed an extension to his contract anyway.
However, while Wane has all the incentives he needs professionally and financially to succeed at Wembley, there will be one family reason that will drive the Wigan coach.
His father, Tony, passed away earlier this year, and the Warriors boss told Chris Hamilton of the Daily Express he will feel the presence of his dad as he leads his team out at Wembley.
My dad was a big supporter of my career and saw me coach Wigan’s first team, which made him very proud.
He would have loved this occasion on Saturday, but I’m happy that he saw me coach my hometown club. It’ll be a great moment for me because I used to go to all the Wembley finals with him when I was a kid.
For Hull, the mere absence of the Challenge Cup from the trophy cabinet since 2005 is incentive enough.
The Humberside club enjoy a rich history and tradition, but they have never lifted the trophy at Wembley.
Their 2005 triumph came at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, while their previous cup win came in the replayed final against Widnes at Elland Road, Leeds, in 1982. Prior to that, Hull's last Challenge Cup title came before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 against Wakefield Trinity in Halifax.
In the eyes of Hull head coach Peter Gentle, history is at hand for his players. He is demanding they seize the opportunity at Wembley, as he told James Smailes of the Hull Daily Mail.
We spoke right at the start of the year about leaving a legacy and we told the players they could be remembered for what they do this year, so let's be remembered for something good.
This is a great opportunity for us. There are two teams left out of 95 teams and we have a chance to do something that no other Hull side has done.
When you look at some of the past players and the teams this club has had, some special players have not been able to get the result at Wembley.
I know it will be difficult, but we've given ourselves a chance and will be doing everything we can to get that result and re-write history.
It won't just be history that will be lining up against Hull at Wembley on Saturday. Gentle's injury problems have hampered preparations for the final, and the Hull coach has recalled half-back Richard Horne to the squad despite him not playing since picking up a foot injury during the Magic Weekend in May.
Winger Tom Lineham is definitely ruled out with an ankle injury, but centre Ben Crooks is back in the squad after overcoming an ankle problem earlier than expected.
Both clubs will have to provide something special to match the last Challenge Cup final between them.
In 1985, Wigan appeared to be strolling to the cup with a 28-12 lead in the second period. But Hull refused to roll over, and inspired by Peter Sterling, they fought back to 28-24 before the hooter sounded with Wigan rocking.
A similar enthralling encounter would be a welcome addition to Challenge Cup history.
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