LET the rugby league world be warned – Ryan Hall reckons there is someone making strides who reminds him of his very own freakish raw talent.
The Leeds Rhinos star, rated the sport’s greatest winger in 2012, has long been established as one of the most dangerous players in the world.
Hard-running, incredibly potent, able to finish in the tightest of situations and defensively assured, Hall has an all-round game the envy of many.
Yet he was just a rookie when Leeds plucked him from the obscurity of local amateur club Oulton Raiders in 2006 and he progressed to their first team barely 12 months later.
Five Grand Final wins on, a man-of-the-match performance in the World Club Challenge success two years ago and 21 tries in just 22 games for England, Hall has been an unqualified success.
The one glaring omission from that CV, of course, is the Challenge Cup, something he hopes to start remedying by bringing down Warrington Wolves in today’s semi-final at St Helens.
Hall’s usual opponent in such meetings is the experienced Australian Joel Monaghan, the pair having had some Titanic tussles since his arrival here in 2011.
But, this term, Monaghan has switched inside to centre to make way for a fresh young face – the 21 -year-old Gene Ormsby, the tall, quick wideman who emerged through Warrington’s Academy to make his Super League debut, at Headingley in February.
With 13 tries in 19 games, he has not looked back since, the Manchester-born player ensuring long-serving Chris Riley has spent the same length of time on loan at Wakefield.
“Gene is a bit of an athlete on the wing for them,” Hall told The Yorkshire Post.
“I feel like I was in the same boat as him as he’s come through on the wing under (Warrington coach) Tony Smith very similar to what I did.
“Obviously, Tony’s seen something in him like he did in me (at Leeds).
“And I see quite a lot of myself in him, too.
“Joel is a great winger as well but has also proved he’s a great centre when he’s played there.
“He’s still kept scoring tries (Monaghan is Super League’s leading try-scorer on 23) and he’s been massive for Warrington.
“When they seem to get close, he seems to be an outlet for them so he’ll be a handful.”
A relative late starter to the professional ranks, Hall earned his first chance under Smith when Leeds played Bradford Bulls at Millennium Magic in 2007, the club winning at Old Trafford later that season before the respected Australian went on to lead Great Britain.
He has since led Warrington to three Challenge Cup final victories, beating Leeds in 2010 and 2012, and navigated them to the last two Grand Finals where they fell against Leeds and then Wigan.
“Tony’s a great coach,” admitted Hall, who also made his international debut under Smith in 2009.
“You can see by his record at clubs he’s been at, the trophies they have won and how good a side they’ve been, too.
“He certainly set me off in the right direction. I only had him for one year full-time but he certainly did help me along the way.”
Leeds were reminded of Smith’s pedigree when his side almost surgically opened them up with such precision in a 24-6 win at the end of May.
That was approaching the midway point of a 10-game winning run for last season’s beaten Grand Finalists and, though they have slipped up against Widnes and Wakefield, they returned to victorious ways with a gutsy victory in Perpignan last week.
Will Leeds, then, need their best display of the season to reach Wembley once more?
“Quite possibly we might do,” admitted 26-year-old Hall. “Warrington are a great side and, when they are on, they are a really hard side to beat in the Challenge Cup.
“That suggests it brings out their best game but, hopefully, we will bring our own finest display and put on a spectacle on Saturday.”
Hall, who has scored 18 tries in 23 games this term, was rested for the surprise loss against Bradford Bulls last Friday.
“It was horrible,” he conceded.
“I’m not a very good watcher especially when things don’t go right on the field.
“You start getting stressed out and shouting, becoming a bit of a fan, yelling at all the players!
“It is quite hard but that’s gone now and we’ve not dwelled too much on it. We’ve looked forward to Warrington.”
A beaten Challenge Cup finalist on three occasions, the Yorkshireman admitted: “It’d be great for this group of players to win the Cup.
“We haven’t tasted success in the Challenge Cup despite winning and being successful in other comps.
“It’d be great for the fans, too. They’ve wanted it since 1999 but we keep falling short.
“It’s been 15 years now and that’s long enough in my eyes so, hopefully, we’ll do it this year.”