Richard Hercock: Fingers crossed for a Yorkshire club to beat Cup final jinx

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Any betting man would say that with nine Yorkshire teams out of 16 still remaining in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup heading into this weekend, then there are good odds that the White Rose will be represented at Wembley on August 24.

The big-hitters like Leeds Rhinos, Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Hull FC and neighbours Hull KR are all competing in the fifth round, knowing they stand just three wins from rugby league’s showcase final.

Throw in Halifax, Sheffield Eagles and York City Knights – the trio flying the county flag for the Championship clubs – and the outlook seems promising.

Now comes the ‘but’.

I have yet to witness a Yorkshire club win the Challenge Cup live at Wembley.

My record is three finals, three defeats.

I thought the trophy was coming back to the Broad Acres in 2009.

I was at the semi-final when a supreme performance from Huddersfield Giants knocked out Cup favourites St Helens.

Driving out of Warrington that evening, I remember seeing some Wolves fans draping a banner over the bridge, saying something along the lines of ‘see you at Wembley’.

I think they were the same Wolves fans laughing into their pints come full time after a 
25-16 win down in the capital the following month.

That had been my first trip to the new Wembley. Walking pitchside on the Friday before the game, having spent weeks building up to the final as the Yorkshire Post’s rugby league correspondent, it forged a soft spot for the West Yorkshire club that I still possess.

Maybe it is the lure of supporting the underdog, but I still remember that final and think how close Nathan Brown’s side came to bringing home the trophy.

I should not have been surprised, though. For Yorkshire clubs have had little success when it comes to getting their name on that famous trophy.

You have to go back to Hull in 2005 to find the last Yorkshire winners, and then it would have been impossible not to have a county winner, as their opponents that day were Leeds Rhinos.

The Headingley club have won the rest the game has to offer over the last decade – joining in the celebrations in the Rhinos dressing room is a favourite memory after Grand Final success at Old Trafford – but when it comes to the Challenge Cup you have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a Leeds success, when they beat London Broncos 52-16.

So no Yorkshire winners for seven years and Leeds have got their losers’ speech finely tuned after missing out at the final hurdle six times since 1999, including the last three Wembley climaxes.

Warrington have prevailed twice, sandwiching Wigan’s 2011 success, so Brian McDermott’s team will be desperately hoping it is a lucky seven this time around.

In fact, my only claim to any link to Challenge Cup success goes back to 1998, when my home-town club Sheffield Eagles beat the mighty Wigan 17-8 in one of the competition’s biggest shocks. Even then, I only watched it on television.

The Eagles – now coached by Lance Todd Trophy winner from that day, Mark Aston – host Halifax tonight, Leeds and Huddersfield meet each other tomorrow afternoon at the John Smith’s Stadium, while Hull FC welcome Wakefield, meaning Yorkshire is guaranteed at least three teams in the quarter-final draw.

Beyond that, I’m afraid the county’s hopes are in the lap of the sporting gods.

But with my track record covering ties, maybe the best chance of Yorkshire success is for the sports editor to send me fishing that afternoon on the banks of the River Don rather than jinx any of our team’s hopes of being crowned Challenge Cup winners.