Castleford Tigers: YEP Jury give their Cup final verdicts

Daryl Clark.

Daryl Clark.

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Our Special Castleford YEP Jury have their say on the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final

Name: Jonny Hughes

Age: 24

Castelford fan for: 
15 years

Lives: Pontefract

The realisation that Castleford Tigers will walk out at Wembley hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

I’m not one to generalise, but it’s safe to assume that I speak on behalf of most Cas fans when I say that this season has defied the wildest dreams of even the most ardent supporters.

Since relegation 10 years ago, it’s been a relatively dour decade. Personally, the Ian Millward era was us at rock bottom.

I can’t forget the sickening feeling of having to drag myself to games, duty-bound to watch ritual humiliations in front of ever-dwindling crowds.

But under the guidance of Daryl Powell, the turnaround has been unbelievable. The players, the fans and Castleford itself are all rejuvenated.

The buzz around town has been palpable since we defeated Widnes. Being too young to recall the last time we played at Wembley, I now know what “cup fever” actually is. I like it a lot.

Perhaps that could be the problem. Some sections of the media pointed to us celebrating the Widnes victory as though it was a final in itself. Compare that with Leeds and their relatively muted celebrations after defeating Warrington, and we may see the difference. Will Cas be content to have a day out at Wembley, while Leeds’ ‘golden generation’ see it as a final chance to end their Cup drought?

If we can play with the same intensity and composure as we have done in the previous two rounds, I’d like to think we have a chance. Leeds have big-game players, and even though I think we were unlucky not to snatch two points at Headingley, I feel a cup final is a slightly different prospect.

That said, we have the firepower to do damage. Dorn, Carney, Shenton, Webster and Dixon – there is a blend of power, experience and class that can trouble Leeds’s miserly defence. Our halves have a decent kicking game, and should the forwards create space for them (Huby and Millington’s availability could be decisive) we have a chance. Giving Daryl Clark quick play-the-balls is crucial.

Leeds are a great club. Most Cas fans would hate to admit it, but they have a fan base and youth system that teams should aspire to, along with a trophy cabinet to make any club envious. That’s why there’ll be no shame should Cas lose at Wembley to a side full of big-game players. Conversely, if we win, it will be an incredible feat.

Leeds fans often joke that Cas fans see Leeds as their “Cup Final”. I’d be interested to know how many Rhinos fans would have thought that this year it would actually have some real silverware at stake ...

Name: Dean Hartshorne

Age: 27

Castleford fan for: 
24 years

Lives: Normanton

The Challenge Cup final is almost upon us and it looks like it’s going to be an absolute cracker at a packed Wembley between two local and fierce rivals, Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos.

After the season that ‘Classy Cas’ have had so far it appears we have now become the public’s second favourite team due to the expansive, exciting rugby we play and that is down to our amazing coaching team of Daryl Powell, Danny Orr and Ryan Sheridan and the players buying into their ethos.

Up against them is the mercurial juggernaut that is Leeds Rhinos whose current squad have a knack of winning the finals, although the Challenge Cup has eluded them since 1999.

There are three major highlights that I’m looking forward to. The first one is the battle between what should be the two starting centres for England in the Four Nations in Leeds’s Kallum Watkins and Castleford’s Michael Shenton, which will be an epic showdown all on its own.

The second is how the young superstar Daryl Clark handles the big stage. He is a talent that only comes around once in a generation and one who deserves to play in the game’s big showcase events.

And finally the third highlight for me will be to see our beloved Jack Fulton walk his Castleford Tigers out at Wembley.

After everything he’s given to us this is for you, Jack.

Good times never seemed so good. Long may they continue.

Name: Rosie Dyson

Age: 25

Castleford fan for: 
17 years

Lives: Leeds

This game has personal significance for me, as it will be my first Challenge Cup final trip to Wembley.

I couldn’t be more excited.

My generation of Cas fans hasn’t had much to shout about, but family tales of past glory days keep my faith burning.

My grandfather attended the 1935 final on a school trip – all the boys went to the match except one who went to the zoo with the girls. I bet he regretted it!

My father’s chances came in 1969 and 1970 and by 1986 he had met and converted my mother. Finally it’s my turn.

Enter two fantastic teams, both with influential players and passionate fans.

The match looks littered with mouth-watering match-ups – look out for Jamie Peacock vs Andy Lynch and Rob Burrow vs Daryl Clark, for a start.

It’s been a magical year for Castleford, but a Challenge Cup win would really mark a sea change in our fortunes.

Mindful of Leeds’ myriad threats across the park (Danny McGuire is a player I particularly admire who always has a good game against us), this year the Tigers’ team bond unquestionably rivals that of the Rhinos and could hold the key to success at Wembley.

Without Jack Fulton, the Daryl Powell and Danny Orr, Ben Cooper’s team, Steve Gill and the fans, Cas wouldn’t have got here.

Win or lose, we’ll be loyal, loud, Cas and proud.

Leeds will be hungry for this one after their long wait for cup glory, but didn’t they warn you not to feed the Tigers?

Name: Harrison Spence-Horton

Age: 12

Cas fan for: Lifetime

Lives: Castleford

This year will be extra special event; as you all know Castleford Tigers face Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup final.

As well as this great final, Castleford Academy are playing in the curtain-raiser at Wembley.

It is a great achievement to play at Wembley but at this young age it makes it much more special. I have always looked up to the Tigers players and to play on the same pitch as them and on the same day is a dream come true. I have supported the Tigers ever since I knew what rugby was.

On behalf of all the teams I would like to say good luck to all and have a brilliant day. I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to all the PE staff at Castleford Academy.

Name: Mark Bedford

Age: 42

Castleford fan for: 
31 years

Lives: Morley

Not many would have thought at the start of the season that Cas would be playing in the Challenge Cup final.

Of course, every year since the 1992 final I’d hoped for a good cup run and now here we are with a genuine chance of winning it and against Leeds. Challenge Cup finals don’t get any better than this.

Of course losing Grant Millington and probably Craig Huby is a massive blow. They are two leaders in our team but we’ve coped pretty well this season with injuries and suspensions and I’m sure we will once again.

The pressure will certainly be on Leeds not to make it seven cup final defeats, and I think we’ll nick it. Just.

Name: Tony Martin

Age: 48

Castleford fan for: 
12 years

Lives: Pontefract

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘team’ as the following – Castleford Tigers. Probably!

In two days, the ‘entertainers’ (thanks Saints) will square up to near neighbours and arch rivals Leeds Rhinos in a Challenge Cup final more eagerly anticipated than many before. It promises much and is likely to deliver far more.

The national stadium is heading for a sell-out and those of us in black and amber – already scientifically proven to make more racket than Motorhead playing an encore as an atom bomb lands – will again be the 18th man. Teams win big rugby league games and this is the year of the Tiger. Come on you ’Ford!

Brad Singleton

Leeds Rhinos: Leeds prop Singleton looking forward to facing hometown club in Challenge Cup