HULL FC coach Peter Gentle has told his players reaching Wembley is not enough and they must start building their own “legacy” with victory in today’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
For a club that, in their 145-year history, have not won in any of their seven appearances at the national stadium and, furthermore, face rivals who have won more times than anyone else, it may be easier said than done.
But the Australian has no time for such statistics and only sees Wigan Warriors in front of them this afternoon, a side he is confident can be overcome.
Gentle has endured some tough times in his second season in East Yorkshire, but has always remained sure his squad built with the aid of owner Adam Pearson’s investment will reap dividends.
“We don’t want to be comfortably just making the Challenge Cup final,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“That’s not what we set out to do. We set out to leave a legacy and believe winning the Cup will do that for this group of players.
“We want it to be the start of something. As far as Super League has gone we’ve shown we can compete with the best, defeating Warrington, Leeds and Catalan, while we were unlucky not to beat Wigan at home earlier in the year.
“There was some very dubious decisions there on that night.
“But the last thing I’m going to say to the boys before they go out at Wembley is just enjoy it.
“We’ve got a massive opportunity – and that’s all we’ve got at the moment as we haven’t achieved anything yet – to do something no one else has ever done at Hull FC.
“When you think of the amount of players who have put that jumper on, some great players who’ve never had a chance to play at Wembley let alone lift the cup...
“To be the first Hull team to win there would be massive so I’ll tell them just make the most of it.”
The Black and Whites have won the Challenge Cup just three times; at Halifax in 1914, a replay at Elland Road after drawing against Widnes at Wembley in 1982 and, latterly, by defeating Leeds Rhinos in Cardiff in 2005.
The most painful defeat, of course, came in 1980 against city rivals Hull KR while their Wembley horror continued in a huge shock against Featherstone Rovers three years later.
Then, in 1985, came more misery as they lost 28-24 against Wigan in, granted, an iconic game billed as the greatest final.
Wigan have lifted the trophy on a record 18 occasions, but Shaun Wane’s side have struggled lately, picking up just two wins in their last seven league outings to suggest vulnerability.
Hull, who have won their last four games, are underdogs but certainly looked relaxed at the traditional Wembley walkabout yesterday after they completed their final training session.
Gentle refused to name his line-up but, with youngster Jamie Shaul taking plenty of high kicks as they warmed down, it looks like he will be retained at full-back at the expense of Richard Horne, the veteran hoping to make his comeback after three months injured.
Ben Crooks, the prolific 20-year-old centre who was initially ruled out for the season with an ankle injury last month, also looked fit and sharp as he prepares to complete his remarkable recovery.
Gentle said: “He’s put a lot of hard work in and we were probably hopeful of next week.
“But he’s there and ready to go. He’s passed every test since late last week so there’s no risk involved in it.
“I could have played Richard Horne or Richard Whiting but he’s our hot top try-scorer so it’d be foolish not to play him.”
With Shaul, 21, and winger Jason Crookes, 23, set to start in the absence of injured Shannon McDonnell and Tom Lineham, though, there is an air of inexperience about Hull’s threequarters which Wigan are sure to target, especially as neither has played much football this season.
“They may be (inexperienced) but they are good young players,” added an insouciant Gentle.
“There’s some good old ones too so they complement each other. I think that will play a part – the enthusiasm that they bring.
“They’re not going to be nervous. Preparations have been spot on and you can see how relaxed they are. We’re probably anxious if anything as we just want to get out there and play.”
Captain Gareth Ellis summed things up when he added: “The key for them all is knowing it doesn’t take a miracle play to win the game.
“It will be hard work and the bloke who wants to put his arm up when the going gets tough.”
Wane, meanwhile, admitted he considered leaving Wigan before his future was sorted this week while fit-again captain Sean O’Loughlin said he was “stressed” a calf problem might have forced him out of the showpiece.