ASPIRING Stevie Ward has “unique motivation” for wanting to help Leeds Rhinos retain the Challenge Cup this season.
The young second-row will feature as the holders begin their defence at home to Huddersfield Giants in tomorrow’s televised sixth round tie.
But Ward, of course, missed out on the actual final last August when he was named as 18th man when Leeds defeated Castleford Tigers to at last end their 15-year quest for success in the famous competition.
On that Wembley heartache, he admitted: “Because of that, there is a bit of a unique motivation for me now.
“It was a massive thing to miss out on and something that set things in place for where I need to get better this year.
“It was a weird feeling. I’ve got so many best mates in the team so you’re elated for them.
“I can remember coming on the pitch after the game and being so happy for those who had missed out so many times over the years.
“On the other end of the scale, I wanted to be part of it as a player. Being a Leeds lad, it was great but I always had it in the back of my head that I will do it myself, too,” he said.
“Whether that’s this year or any other year, it will be great to do it.
“I’d had a few injuries but this year seems to be a bit of a realisation that I really do want to win the Challenge Cup just like everyone else.
“It’s a massive game on Saturday; it’s on BBC1 and I watched these sorts of games as a young kid – they were huge and that’s what got me into rugby league.
“It should be a great game,” he added.
Ward played in the 2012 Challenge Cup final defeat against Warrington Wolves when 18 in his breakthrough season. After a series of injuries since, however, he is now discovering his best form on a regular basis.
“I could split into chapters how my game’s gone in the last three years and I’d say this is the one where I’ve hit a bit of form consistently,” Ward added, with three tries in 13 games so far this year.
“I have been able to cope with the physical demands of the game every week.”