IT’’S LADBROKES Challenge Cup quarter-final weekend and, of course, a little strange we’re not involved with Leeds.
There are some great ties around, though, and some which are pretty hard to call.
Hull FC v Catalans is a good one isn’t it? There’s two really good teams there. Catalans are without a few of their big-names but that’s not stopped them in the past this season.
But Hull are riding high at the top of Super League and getting plenty of plaudits.
Being at home, with their crowd behind them, you’d think they’d edge it and it is a great opportunity for them as a club to go on and win some silverware this year.
They have a healthy squad and are able to call a raft of players back in readiness for this.
One of them is Gaz Ellis who is having a tremendous season.
There’s talk of Gaz being Man of Steel and I can see why. He is so consistent and hasn’t always got the credit he deserves during his career so it is nice to see people talking about him now.
Whenever you watch him he does all the simple things well and when Gaz plays well, Hull play well. He was one of the people I looked up to when coming through at Leeds and I learned so much from him.
To see him still doing it now, at the age he is at and the injuries he’s had, is a credit to his mental and physical toughness.
As their captain, I do hope he can go on and lift a trophy with Hull this year.
Widnes v Warrington is a tricky one, too. Obviously, it’s a massive local derby and they’ve had a few good battles overs the last few years.
Warrington are riding high at the moment but aren’t playing that great with it.
They have some quality players, though, and can really click when they want.
Also, as a coach, Tony Smith has a habit of getting his teams up for the big games as I know well from when he was here with us at Leeds.
Widnes are different again. Having started the season on fire they are now down in eighth having gone through a bit of a sticky patch.
We play them here at Headingley next Sunday in what will be a big match for us and them.
They are missing a fair few players through injury on Friday, though, so I’m going to go for a Warrington win.
On Warrington, it’s brilliant to see Ryan Bailey doing so well again.
I’ve known him and played with him for a lot of years.
He is a character Bails and is misunderstood at times. Since he left Leeds he has been doing it tough. He’s been to a few clubs and not really found his feet.
But he’s got a coach now who knows him well and knows how to get the best out of him. It’s great to see him back playing and playing well.
He’ll get better the longer he does play and and when he’s fit and in a good state of mind, Tony knows he has a fine player in his squad.
On Saturday night, Castleford head to Wigan. Wigan have ground out a few results this year without ever playing too great. They are such a tough team to play against.
At the same time, I never like going against Cas but I see Luke Gale’s out for them and he’ll be a big loss. Cas have got a few players out – Michael Shenton, Benny Roberts and Andy Lynch long-term – but Daryl (Powell) has coached them in a way to always find a way to win or at least get close.
He’s simplified their gameplan to suit the players he has in the half-back roles and they were unlucky not to beat Hull last week. But I think, with the players Wigan have returning – Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins, Dan Sarginson and the like – and personnel of such big-game experience that they will get the win especially being at home.
It should be a great contest, though, and if it’s anything like a couple of years ago when Cas won there famously, it’ll be a cracker for the TV cameras.