One thing I get asked a lot is why haven’t we been able to repeat our Super League success in the Challenge Cup?
Considering we have won six Grand Finals in the past 10 years, but lost as many Challenge Cup deciders since the club’s last triumph 15 years ago, that is a fair question.
I really wish we knew the answer, because if we did we would be able to fix things up, put it right and get our hands on the trophy at Wembley in four months’ time.
One thing I can say for certain is that it is not down to a lack of effort or desire. We have had some very good Challenge Cup performances over the years – the 2003 and 2012 semi-finals spring to mind – but the simple fact is we have never performed in a final or done ourselves justice.
We had an opportunity in 2012 – which was the final I missed, because of injury – but in the others we’ve played in we haven’t got it right on the day and we were never really in with a shout. That is definitely something we want to try and put right this year.
Another question people often ask me is would I swap any of my Grand Final rings for a Challenge Cup winner’s medal?
The answer to that one is no, I wouldn’t.
The Challenge Cup has so much history and everybody wants to get to the final and lift the trophy, but you can get a favourable draw and sneak a win in the final.
Winning the Cup is not easy, as we have proved, but you have to understand the amount of effort it takes to become a Super League champion.
It starts in November at the beginning of pre-season training and takes 11 months of blood, sweat and tears. It is a rollercoaster ride and you have to get through 27 weekly rounds, plus all the play-offs.
This is no disrespect to the Challenge Cup, but I think winning Super League is harder and therefore probably more rewarding.
I say probably, because I can’t actually compare the two feelings yet. We treat the Cup just as seriously as we do the league and it is a big target because none of our current group has won the Cup as a Leeds player.
With a few of us at or nearing the veteran stage – me included – we know we have got to get our skates on. That’s not something we have talked about, because as a professional player you tend to live week to week and not look too far ahead, but we do realise time is running out and if we don’t do it this year, there won’t be many more chances while we are all still together.
The third big question when the Challenge Cup comes along is, do I still think it has the magic that surrounded it a few years ago? Being honest, I would probably say not. I don’t think the Challenge Cup has been quite the same since the final was moved from the spring. When the competition was staged in pre- and early-season it was the sole focus, but now it is spread out over four months, there are long gaps between some of the rounds and the final is only a couple of weeks before the play-offs start. That said, the Challenge Cup is still something I look forward to every year and I’ll be doing everything I can to try and ensure we are successful this time.