Castleford Tigers veteran Grant Millington confident of being fit for Wembley Challenge Cup final date with St Helens
Veteran Castleford Tigers forward Grant Millington hopes to make his comeback from injury against Huddersfield Giants on Tuesday - giving himself a chance to prove form and fitness for the Betfred Challenge Cup final.
The Australian missed Tigers’ 2014 Wembley appearance with a knee injury, but is confident history will not repeat itself against St Helens two weeks today.
He has not played since being hurt in Tigers’ quarter-final win over Salford Red Devils in May, but said: “I am feeling good, I am excited.
“I am hoping to play in our next game, against Huddersfield.
“My recovery has gone really well, I am quite lucky that where the injury was I have not really had any pain, so while we’ve had to be careful of stability and that sort of stuff, I have progressed really well.”
The injury was a medial ligament tear and Millington said: “They are tricky ones.
“Sometimes you can come back a bit earlier than I have, but we’ve just had to be careful with it with the potential of trying to make it back for the Cup final. It was very important we did it the right way.”
Of his Wembley chances, Millington said: “I’ll have to get through the Huddersfield game at least and obviously not just get through it, but play well.
“You don’t want to be going into a Cup final underdone. I’ve been working pretty hard trying to prepare my body around the knee and be fit and strong enough to be ready to go.”
This could be Millington’s last year at Castleford, the club he joined in 2012. He was a Grand Finalist in 2017, but is anxious to get to play on the big stage in two weeks’ time.
“Obviously I missed the last time we were there, in 2014, with exactly the same injury,” he recalled.
“As soon as I did it [against Salford] I knew it was important I gave myself the best chance because as a rugby player these are the things you hang around for and you really work towards.
“I have had medials before, where you’re looking at four weeks, but when I first did it I knew it was quite significant.
“I didn’t really come into my mind, that the Cup final was on the horizon.
“Obviously I knew it was there, but I also knew I had a bit of time to try and get it right and no matter how bad it was I would have a chance as long as I did everything correctly.
“The physio’ staff and everyone here, all the training staff, have given me every possible chance to be right and fingers crossed it all pays off.”
Several Tigers players are in a similar position, hoping to get at least one game under their belt before Wembley.
“It’s so important,” Millington insisted. “You can’t look forward to the Cup final now and think it’s just going to happen when we get there.
“We need to put in a good performance in the coming weeks to not only get our bodies in the right position, but also get our minds in the right position.
“These finals, we’ve not played in a lot of them, but most of us have played in a few over the years and hopefully we’ve learned our lessons that you’ve got to go in there ready to go.
“You can’t go in there cold and just think it’s going to happen for you.”
Tigers were due to play Saints at the Jungle on Wednesday this week, but the game was cancelled because they could not raise a team.
Saints were awarded a 24-0 victory and Millington reflected: “It is disappointing.
“As rugby players we are competitors and you never want to give away points like that, but if we had put a team out there on Wednesday, it would have been dangerous.
“We would have had 14 fit players and some of those would have played no Super League games.
“With the academy not available [because of Covid] it was just a player welfare thing.
“To be docked two points is disappointing, but it is what it is - we carry on and even though we’ve got the Cup final ahead of us we’ve got to keep battling away over the next two weeks for competition points.
“We are not discounting that, that’s still really important to us.”
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