ADOPTED Castlefordian Luke Dorn is desperate to produce a “miracle” and help fire the town and its supporters back to Wembley.
When the Australian rejoined Castleford Tigers from London Broncos at the end of last season, Challenge Cup finals and the pursuit of a League Leaders’ Shield were far from his mind.
The club had just finished 12th and, though they were clearly making progress under Daryl Powell, in most people’s eyes the upshot for this year had to be avoiding relegation.
Yet now they know if they can defeat Widnes Vikings tomorrow they will be playing in their first Challenge Cup final since 1992 –and still in the hunt for a first Super League Grand Final appearance, too.
Dorn, who scored 19 tries in 26 league appearances for the club during his previous season there in 2008, concedes it is the least the town’s supporters deserve.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the people of Castleford,” he said.
“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.”
Dorn’s own form has been central to Castleford’s reinvigoration; the 32-year-old has scored 16 tries in 17 games while bringing real imagination to their attacking play and producing arguably the best football of his career so far.
He has been in England since 2005, originally joining London from Sydney Roosters before a solitary season with Salford in 2007 and, likewise, with Castleford before returning to the capital.
Obviously, considering some of his employers, the former Australian Schoolboys international has struggled to get into position to lift any silverware so far, his closest chance coming and going in sobering fashion last season.
Embarrassed London were vanquished 70-0 by eventual winners Wigan Warriors in an utterly one-sided Challenge Cup semi-final.
“Unfortunately, I did play in that,” recalled Dorn.
“It was at the same venue as this weekend, too – Leigh.
“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.
“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 that anything could happen on the day.
“We were well and truly out-classed, 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 then, it was great.”
Some brilliant Australians have obviously graced Wembley before, from Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling in that epic ’85 Challenge Cup final between Wigan and Hull, to the less heralded but still memorable Jamie Sandy, who scored a brilliant try 12 months later when Castleford last won the trophy.
“It would mean a huge amount to me,” said Dorn, when asked what a Wembley appearance would signify to him. “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 but I’m 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 exciting 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 tim es over the years on and off the field, so it would be a pretty amazing thing.”
Castleford, just two points behind leaders St Helens, have beaten Widnes twice in the league already 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.”