Dave Craven: Wembley showdown ideal time for Hull FC and Wigan to impress a watching Australia

GRAND OCCASION: Hull FC's Masi Matonga breaks into the arms of Lewis Tierney and Taulima Tautai earlier this season. 
Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
GRAND OCCASION: Hull FC's Masi Matonga breaks into the arms of Lewis Tierney and Taulima Tautai earlier this season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
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THE Challenge Cup final is one British game that the Australians do traditionally take an interest in.

Over past decades, often you hear players that have ventured this way regaling how they used to get up in the middle of the night to tune in and watch what was happening 10,000 miles away in London.

It will be hoped they do likewise today and that the sport’s most famous knockout competition duly delivers a proper treat.

It is particularly important this time around as the next time the finalists Hull FC and Wigan Warriors meet together it could actually be in New South Wales.

Yes, for Wembley, read Wollongong. News last month that these two sides will take a first-ever Super League game on the road (in the sky) to Australia was met with a mixed reaction.

Personally, I feel it is a great idea and so do many Hull and Wigan fans who are looking around trying to sort deals to get themselves out there.

Gareth Ellis and Sean O'Loughlin with the Challenge Cup trophy at Headingley earlier this week. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Gareth Ellis and Sean O'Loughlin with the Challenge Cup trophy at Headingley earlier this week. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

But it needs the Aussie public to back it, too, and that’s where today’s match comes in handy.

If the rival sides can produce the sort of game we all know they are capable of – fast, slick, enthralling fare – then it will serve as a timely reminder to those Down Under that it might actually be worth coming along to see the historic game there next February.

Everything is set for a great contest. We won’t tempt fate – again – and say it could be a repeat of that brilliant 1985 final.

That would be foolish especially given how the subsequent 2013 meeting turned out. Awful.

There is plenty to suggest this could be an entertaining match given the players on show.

The YP’s Dave Craven

However, there is plenty to suggest this could be an entertaining match given the players on show.

Sam Tomkins, for instance, is finally beginning to show glimpses of his world-class form of old.

His last game at Wembley with Wigan was in 2013 before he headed off on his big NRL move to New Zealand Warriors which, frankly, never worked out.

The England full-back returned a shadow of his former self, admittedly hampered by a succession of frustrating injuries but there were genuine fears he would never rediscover his dazzling best.

In the last few weeks the 28-year-old has become more of a force and Wembley would be the perfect venue to prove that.

But, equally so, what price his opposite number Jamie Shaul coming up with a match-winning play just as he did last year?

The packs, both big, aggressive and each with their own players who like to irritate and niggle, are quite evenly matched.

You only need to look at the rivals No13s to realise that – Gareth Ellis and Sean O’Loughlin may have a combined age of 70 yet are such esteemed, hardened campaigners they still manage to dictate like energetic teenagers.

Undoubtedly, George Williams is one of Wigan’s most dangerous operators and it will be fascinating to see the young England stand-off get his first taste of Wembley.

The fact he is joint-favourite to earn the Lance Todd Trophy shows that, even at the age of just 22, people realise he can handle such pressure.

Hull’s own half Marc Sneyd, though, thrived here last year and his kicking could yet prove the difference.

Of the two sides yesterday, FC certainly looked the more relaxed during the Captain’s Run but that is perhaps no surprise given they won here just 12 months ago and most of that winning side return again.

Wigan are less experienced. They had more to soak in.

Hull coach Lee Radford, clearly, was in laid-back mood, sporting some new whiter than white boots which he premiered when attempting to moonwalk across the tunnel area.

“They’re very, very new – I’ve actually pinched them off Richard Horne,” he revealed, referring to one of his assistant coaches who won the Challenge Cup as part of the 2005 Hull side.

“He doesn’t know as he thinks I had them delivered but I took them out of his car.

“I saw them and thought, ‘I like them!’ But he gets them free anyway so...”

Just like Hull and Wigan get a free shot at impressing that Aussie audience this afternoon.