THE PROSPECT of playing at Wembley kept Leeds Rhinos flier Tom Briscoe going through the dark times this year.
Briscoe is set to feature on the right-wing for Rhinos against Hull KR in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final – in his sixth game back after more than four months on the sidelines.
The Featherstone-born speedster underwent surgery on a serious shoulder injury suffered in March, but said a winner’s medal in two days’ time would make all the pain, frustration and hard graft worthwhile.
“It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the start,” Briscoe admitted.
“You want to be playing no matter what, but coming to the business end of the season I wanted to be part of that and luckily the injury was early enough on to get myself right for these big games.
“As soon as we got through the semi-final I knew I wanted to be back in order to play in this one.
“Thankfully the hard work in the gym and the re-hab with the conditioning staff and the physios has paid off.
“I suppose I have picked up where I left off in the form I was in at the start of the season.
“To get back I needed some game time and I think I’ve got that and started to improve again.”
Saturday will be Briscoe’s fourth Challenge Cup final, after two defeats with Hull and Rhinos’ win over Castleford Tigers last year, when his try opened the scoring.
“It’s two contrasting emotions, epitomised by the walk up the steps at the end of the game to collect the different medals,” he said.
“The feelings are very different. Obviously I know which is the better one and which I want to be experiencing come the end of the game on Saturday.”
Rhinos are odds-on favourites with the bookies, but Briscoe warned: “Hull KR put in some good performances this year before the league slit into the eights.
“It is all on the day.We know they are a good team and they are capable of beating us, so that’s the challenge.
“We know we’ve got to prepare for the best Hull KR can throw at us and we’ve got to prepare to be at our best as well.”
Briscoe has identified wingers Josh Mantellato and Ken Sio as two of Rovers’ most lethal attacking weapons.
He said: “They are big threats and I think it’ll be a great battle to be part of, our back-three versus their back-three.
“Kieran Dixon is a good player as well and he can return the ball quick and strong. Our forward pack have got to be on our game to control those three players off the kick returns.
“But I think all over the field we’ve got to be good, because we know the likes of their halves can put on good shapes and on the edges we’ve got to be able to defend that and stop the tries being scored.”
But Briscoe also believes Rhinos’ outside-backs are going into the final in top form.
“It’s something we’ve worked a lot on,” he said.
“We know what we are capable of and we want to be showing that week-in and week-out. It is great to be part of that.
“Every one one of the players I play alongside are great players and it’s great to have them pushing you and seeing them do what they can do, it motivates you to be on top of your game.”
Rhinos’ squad was due to set off to London from Headingley Carnegie at around 3.30pm today.
Fans were invited to wave the team off, with players being available for pictures and autographs before departure.