DURING a glittering career, Hull FC’s Leon Pryce is arguably best recognised for his role in a St Helens team that lifted the Challenge Cup in three successive years from 2006 to 2008.
Granted, he won a trio of Super League Grand Finals with Bradford Bulls previously, too, as he emerged from the Academy of his hometown club with some fanfare.
However, they were still his formative years and Pryce, probably hampered in a way by his rich versatility, was still yet to establish himself in his favoured position of stand-off.
That did occur, though, in that great Saints side where hooker Keiron Cunningham and scrum-half Sean Long were his allies in a remarkable midfield triumvirate.
As Pryce sets out on the Challenge Cup road once more with Hull tomorrow that duo, long since retired, will now be plotting against him in their current roles as Saints head coach and assistant.
Talking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the televised sixth round tie at Langtree Park, the 34-year-old admitted: “It’s good to see them out there doing that.
“Obviously, it’s a natural progression for them; they are both Saints legends as players and now they’ve moved into the coaching side.
“I’m not sure if I ever always saw them doing it. I mean I probably never saw (former Bradford team-mates) Paul Anderson or Brian McDermott going into coaching but they did and have done really well there.
“It’s hard to say whether you can tell from someone as a player if they will be good as a coach but Kez and Longy are certainly doing well.
“It was a fantastic time playing in that Saints team (06-08).
“When you’re around a winning team like that you’re happier yourself.
“When you’re happy and winning trophies you play your best football and I had some really happy memories from that time.”
Pryce, who also won the Challenge Cup with Bradford in 2003, could quite feasibly lift the famous trophy once more if Hull continue in their current form.
They have won seven of their last eight games to emerge as genuine contenders for Super League but some fans will still fancy them more to have a crack at the less arduous knockout competition.
Defeating Saints, of course, will be a sizeable challenge; they are hurting having not won it since Pryce, Cunningham, Long et al conspired to defeat Hull, ironically, in that last final eight years ago.
Current FC head coach Lee Radford was in the beaten side that day as was assistant Richard Horne plus Pryce’s now Airlie Birds team-mates Kirk Yeaman and Danny Washbrook.
Has he reminded them of that afternoon much this week?
“There’s not been much said about it,” insisted Pryce, who scored late on in the 2008 final to seal a 28-16 victory after the East Yorkshire club had led heading into the last 15 minutes.
“There’s banter every day in our club so you don’t need it to be any sort of special week for that to happen here. It was a really, really hot day, though, very humid conditions and a really tough game.
“I don’t think it was until Wilko (Jon Wilkin) charged down a kick to score between the posts late on that we knew we’d done it.”
Pryce, who has recovered from a head knock suffered in last week’s 28-26 win over his other previous club Catalans Dragons, understands why hopes are growing for Hull. “We’ve improved this last year,” added Pryce. “We played okay at times last week and we’ve managed to string a few wins together now. We have to carry that form on into the Challenge Cup this week as we know it’ll be a tough game over at Saints. I don’t think there’s any bigger or harder place to go than Saints away.”
Admittedly, they have not secured a Challenge Cup win there since 1926 but that masks the fact they have only actually played four other ties at Saints in the interim.
Losing second-rows Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu to international duty is a blow but no other Super League side could replace such high-calibre players with names as stellar as Gareth Ellis and Mark Minichiello.
Pryce admitted: “It shows the strength of the squad this year; we’ve lost two massive players but got two massive players coming back in, too.”