Lucky Luke: Luke Dorn didn’t think he’d get a second chance of a Challenge Cup semi-final and is keen to make the most of it. Peter Smith reports.
VETERAN FULL-BACK Luke Dorn is hoping only the venue will be the same when he makes his second successive Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final appearance tomorrow.
Dorn was at full-back for London Broncos when they were routed 70-0 by Wigan Warriors at Leigh Sports Village 13 months ago and admitted he feared that was the end of his Wembley dream.
“We had quite a good run, for the team we were at the time, to get there, so it feels a completely different beast this year,” said the Aussie, who will be a key man for Castleford Tigers in tomorrow’s showdown with Widnes Vikings.
“It was still a fantastic experience leading into it. We were going up against Wigan and we were under no illusions about how big a task it was going to be, but we were of the opinion anything could happen on the day.
“We were well and truly out-classed that day, but it is something I will look back on in a positive way, up until about 15 minutes in when the floodgates opened. Up until that, it was great.”
The boot is on the other foot this year, with the pressure of expectation on Tigers.
“I suppose people will say that purely because of our position on the ladder,” Dorn said.
“If it was sixth versus seventh they’d say the sixth-placed team are the favourites.
“We think we are evenly-matched.
“They have got some good form and they are a really good team, so we are excited about it and really, really looking forward to it.”
Favourites often come a cropper at the semi-final stage.
A year ago, then-holders Warrington Wolves were expected to cruise past Hull, but were shocked 16-12. Dorn said: “We were the underdogs when we went to Wigan in the quarter-final and we got the victory.
“There’s plenty of underdog stories in games like this and not just in rugby league, but in all sports with a knockout competition.
“We will be excited, anything can happen and hopefully it happens for us.”
Dorn returned to Tigers in the off-season for a second spell, having spent the 2008 campaign as a Castleford player.
The former Northern Eagles, Manly and Sydney Roosters back has been playing in this country since 2005 and admitted a Wembley appearance would “mean a huge amount to me”.
Said the 32-year-old, who also had a season with Salford in 2007: “I haven’t had a great record in terms of wins and losses over my career in Super League.
“I have had a fantastic time and I regard myself as having had a good career, but I thought last year was my only chance to pull off one of those miraculous things.
“To get another chance at it this year is something I didn’t anticipate happening immediately, but I am very, very excited about it.
“It is a shame it has been so long between the last [Challenge Cup] game and this one, but I am glad it has rolled around now.
“It is really excited and what better club to do it at than Cas, with such great history?
“It would mean a real lot to me and my wife.
“We have had our tough times over the years on and off the field, so it would be a pretty amazing thing.”
Dorn is aware of what an appearance at Wembley could do for the Castleford club as a whole and its long-suffering fans.
Tigers have been relegated twice since the last time they played there in 1992 and Dorn said: “I can’t speak highly enough of the people of Castleford.
“You would swear I was born and raised in Castleford the way people treat me, my wife and daughter. They are the most fantastic people. A little bit like myself, they haven’t had a lot to crow about over the last 20 years or so.
“”It is a long time since they had anything to shout about in the Cup or Super League, so to give them something adds a real sense of satisfaction
“I know we haven’t achieved anything yet, but we have given ourselves a really good starting point. Just to see the smiles on their faces and to see them coming to a game with an expectation of at least getting a competition and more likely a win, it is amazing.
“To give them something back really feels good.”
Widnes are in a similar position, their last Cup final appearance being in 1993. They have also spent time outside the top-flight and Dorn is aware they will be just as motivated.
Cas have beaten Widnes twice in the league this year, but Dorn said: “We had a pretty even contest at the Jungle.
“When we went there we got off to a really good start, but other than that they were strong.
“They were physical, they have some big boys and some speed on their edges and Kevin Brown is probably the form player in the competition.
“He is such a good player, so we have to be on our guard for him. We are definitely not going to be taking anything lightly.
“We have come up with our game plan, we have practised it and we are pretty confident in it, but we have got to go out and execute it now.
“We will be ready come game day and hopefully we can go out there and get a victory.”