MAN OF Steel candidate Daryl Clark will go head-to-head with one of his first coaches at Wembley tomorrow.
Clark went to Airedale High School, where Leeds Rhinos star Rob Burrow put him through his early rugby league paces.
Burrow, will start at hooker for Rhinos in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final against Clark and his Castleford Tigers team-mates. Cas coach Daryl Powell won’t reveal until shortly before kick-off whether Clark will start or be among the substitutes, but the duo will be in direct opposition at some stage.
“It’s funny, as my first year on the school team Rob was coach,” Clark recalled.
“He was good. It was not so intense – just a mess around really – but he was part of that as he went to Airedale as well.
“He’s still a massive player now, but was massive then as well and to have a professional player like Rob around us was a real buzz for the team.”
Clark played for Airedale in the finals of three national competitions, but said: “We didn’t go to Wembley that year – when he left we won!
“But when we started the school team he was there helping pick and select.
“I’ve not had time to see him before this (tomorrow’s final), but he’s an Airedale lad too and having known him from my school days as coach it’ll be good to play against him in the actual final.”
Clark played for Airedale High in national finals when he was 14, 15 and 16, though not in the annual Cup final curtain-raiser.
“I think we’re the only team to win it three years on the bounce,” he said.
“We didn’t play there, but you got to go walk around at half-time at Wembley – and got in for free.”
That experience doesn’t mean there’ll be no nerves at 3pm tomorrow.
Clark said: “It’s a bit different from schools rugby! I know what it’s like, but it’ll be completely different and I’m looking forward to it.
“The biggest game I’ve played was the semi-final, but obviously this goes to a different level with 70 or 80,000 so it’ll be a special day.
“I don’t really get nervous, not just for normal league games. I won’t know until I get there.
“I’d think I’d get nervous – big occasion, biggest game of my life – but I’m looking forward to it.
“It is massive for the town. It’s been a long time since Castleford had any glory trips away or big finals so with me living locally, just walking to the shops you’re getting stopped all the time by people saying how massive it is.”