I HAVE heard a saying “players win matches and coaches lose them”. In other words, if things go well the players get all the credit and when they don’t it is the coach who gets the blame.
I think that’s true to a large extent, so I hope Brian McDermott gets the appreciation he deserves for our semi-final win last week.
It was a really good victory and as Jamie Peacock said after the game, Mac deserves a lot of credit for the game plan he came up with.
We worked on it for a couple of weeks leading up to the semi-final and for the first 40 minutes I think we executed it pretty much perfectly.
I thought the first half on Saturday was probably the best we have played this year and it was good to be part of a performance like that.
In the second half we got a bit scrappy in certain situations, but Warrington threw a lot at us as they tried to get back into the game and I think we showed a great deal of character and determination to hang on.
It is always a good feeling after winning a semi-final and we were delighted to have got the victory, especially after some disappointments over the last few weeks.
We have always been a team that doesn’t rely too much on structure. We like to play off-the-cuff and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
In the lead-up to the semi-final we all bought into what Mac wanted us to do and crucially, we were strong defensively.
Warrington have a lot of strike power and if they get on a roll they are very hard to stop or to control.
Once they get some quick play-the-balls they can rip any team apart, but I thought we did a really good job dealing with that, especially in the first half.
It was a team performance, but I was happy with the way I went personally. I was disappointed the week before against Bradford, which was one of those games that’s best forgotten.
I think a few of us made amends last week and it was very satisfying to come off at the end feeling like we had all done our job to a high level.
The initial euphoria has worn off now and it is a case of playing a waiting game until we can get stuck into the Wembley build-up next week.
I am sure Mac and the coaching staff will already be drawing up a game plan and putting preparations into place, but we have got Sunday’s trip to London Broncos to deal with before we can really focus on Wembley.
That said, everybody in the camp is looking forward to the final and it’s a relief that there’s not a longer build-up.
It was great to see the queue for tickets at Headingley on Sunday and I know there have been similar scenes in Castleford.
I think the all-West Yorkshire final has really captured the public’s imagination. There’s a lot of Cas fans around where I live in Leeds and they are really up for it.
It’s all set to be a fantastic occasion and hopefully both sets of fans can pack Wembley out for it, create a fantastic atmosphere and show everyone watching on TV what rugby league supporters are all about.
I WAS pleased Castleford won their semi-final.
No disrespect at all to Widnes, but I think it probably makes for a better game at Wembley and it’s great for the county to have two West Yorkshire teams in the final. I watched Cas’ game against Widnes and I thought they played really well, as they have done all year.
They played the conditions and handled the pressure situations better. Widnes didn’t cope as well as Cas did, they looked like the occasion got to them and Cas were deserved winners.
I think what it showed was Cas won’t be fazed by the occasion when they get to Wembley. We might have more experience of playing there, but Tigers aren’t going to let the event put them off their game.
I think everyone has been expecting them to come a cropper at some stage all year, but they’ve shown they are the real deal.
With four games left they are still in the hunt for top spot in Super League, they look like genuine Grand Final contenders and they are on their way to Wembley.
That’s credit to everyone at the club, but especially Daryl Powell who has transformed them since he took over last year.
It is largely the same group of players, but looking from the outside they seem to be really well-drilled, they are singing off the same hymn sheet and they’ve obviously got a lot of strength in depth.
People are making us favourites for the final, but I think it is an even contest. You only have to look at how close our two Super League games against them have been to see it is a tough one to call. I am pleased for Daryl because he is somebody I have got a lot of time for. I was in the academy during the six months he had in charge before he stepped up into the hot seat when Dean Lance left, back in 2001.
I was really impressed with him in the brief time he was youth boss and he did a really good job as Rhinos head coach.
He brought a lot of young players through into the first team and gave us a chance and I will always be grateful to him for having the faith to hand me my Super League debut.
I also worked with him when he was involved in the England set-up and I could see then how much he has developed, matured and improved as a coach.
I was really pleased when Cas gave him a chance and I think he’s already proved he’s up there with the very best in the competition.
GIVEN A choice, we wouldn’t have picked an away game against London for the week before the Challenge Cup final.
We went down there seven days before Wembley in 2011 and it didn’t work out too well, but you have to deal with what’s in front of you.
London have got nothing to lose and they will probably expect us to have one eye on the final, so I should imagine they fancy their chances a little bit. We will have to wait and see whether Mac decides to rest a few players and what team he puts out, but it is a big game for us and we want to go down to the Hive and do a good job.
It is incredibly tight at the top of the table, but four wins will make us league leaders and that’s one of the goals we set ourselves at the start of the year. The two points are absolutely vital and if we want to be in a good position going into the play-offs, we can’t afford any more slip-ups. Everybody will put their hand up to play this weekend, because that’s what we do.
It is no use worrying about getting injured or anything like that, the important thing is to go out and play your normal game.