THERE could be some worried dads getting that famous menacing stare from Mark O’Meley in the not too distant future.
The grizzled Australian prop, who has made a name for himself as one of the toughest competitors in rugby league, will finally hang up his boots at the end of the season.
Firstly, he hopes to put in a typical stint up front today to set the platform for a Hull FC win over Wigan Warriors in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
But O’Meley, who has spent the last four years in England with the Airlie Birds, is the first to admit he is unsure what he will do with his competitive streak when it all comes to an end.
“I will miss the whole man-against-man aspect,” he told the Yorkshire Post ahead of this afternoon’s Wembley decider.
“I certainly won’t miss the fitness and the training; I had last Friday’s game off to freshen up for this week and felt unreal in training Monday morning so that will be good.
“Every week there’s a niggle. No player goes in 100 per cent fit unless you’re a princess and wrapped in cotton wool.
“Everyone’s at 70 or 80 per cent every week and there’s always a new injury so I’ll be looking forward to getting up on a morning without limping to a toilet.
“But, yeah, I will miss that competitive streak.
“I might have to be one of those dads who live their life through their kids.
“I might start going to games, looking at dads and carrying on... ‘What did you say about my kid?’
“Who knows? It could be funny. I get a bit like that now, actually.”
It will be the Wigan pack O’Meley needs to get confrontational with this afternoon as Hull look to rock the foundations of their opponents and blunt the attacking prowess of flair players like Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley.
The saying goes that forwards get teams to Wembley but backs win the cup. O’Meley, who represented Australia 15 times and New South Wales State of Origin, might argue otherwise.
“They’ve a good pack,” he said, revealing he actually recommended Lee Mossop when asked about Wigan’s England prop by Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart.
“Mossop’s going to Parra which is good and I gave him a rap. Our job’s ugly in the middle and always has been. Someone’s got to do it – and some enjoy doing it.
“If you look at (hooker Michael) McIlorum he’s probably the most in-form player in Super League, I think, for a forward.
“He loves it, he thrives on it, he loves someone bumping him off and then putting shots on others.
“Blokes like that you respect and like and it is competitive in the middle. Hopefully, we’ve got more blokes on the day, though, who want to do that job.
“Whatever, it’s going to be a good old battle in there.”
Hull lost narrowly at home to Wigan earlier this year – the return league meeting is ironically on Friday – but Peter Gentle’s side have amassed enough currency with other notable wins to realise this tie is well within their grasp.
The semi-final victory over holders Warrington Wolves was particularly important in building confidence although O’Meley, 32, admits he would like today’s event to evolve more smoothly.
“We were on the ropes there for a while, two tries behind early on and, looking at some eyes behind the posts, I was thinking these blokes need to believe in something,” said the former Sydney City Rooster, who won an NRL title with Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004.
“Danny Houghton piped up and Gaz (Ellis) and we got a bit of a result from the next kick-off.
“Then everyone started to believe, the crowd started rising and it was an awesome experience.
“But we do seem to put ourselves into bad situations and have to fight our way out of them.
“If we can overcome that, it’ll make our job a lot easier but we don’t play the game because it’s easy do we?
“We play the game because it’s competitive and you have that competitive streak in you. If you didn’t have it, there’d be no point being here.
“We don’t go out planning to start like that. We want to go out there and try put our best foot forward early in the game and maintain it. But if it happens I guess in the back of our mind we know we’ve dug ourselves out of it before. Wigan are a superior team, though. They’ve experience all over with internationals, speedsters... so it’s going to be tough.”
Although Hull may get a shot at a Grand Final before it all concludes for the man they call ‘Ogre’ – his balding head and burly figure reminding some of cartoon character Shrek – this is certainly their best chance of sending O’Meley off as a winner.
“It would be the best feeling ever,” he conceded, when asked about the prospect of lifting the Challenge Cup. “But you can always rewind. You can’t jump forward. There’s a lot of hard work to go to get that reward. You need to feed off the excitement of what it would be like but you have to keep composed and work hard towards achieving that.”
And as for his plans afterwards on his return to his native Australia?
“I’m looking to buy a little farm not far from where I grew up and I’ve got a pub there in Hunter Valley which the wife will go back and run,” he said. “Hopefully, she’ll earn enough money so I can mess around on my farm.”
His two sons are relishing the Wembley occasion, too.
“More so the younger one. Jake, who’s 13 and ecstatic,” said O’Meley.
“He hasn’t shut up about Wembley this and Wembley that. He speaks like a Hull kid with a Hull accent now.
“My other lad, Nick, is 15 and he’s a full-back in the Hull scholarship. I’ve got him a couple of opportunities back home so it’ll just be whether he’s good enough.
“I don’t know whether this (England) will have slowed him down a bit and he might have missed the boat or it’s improved him as it’s a lot more physical in Super League than NRL.”