CAPTAIN Stuart Dickens has paid tribute to the work of head coach Daryl Powell and chairman Mark Campbell on the eve of Featherstone Rovers’ first ever Northern Cup final appearance.
The West Yorkshire club has historically endured plenty of misery in the competition, not least when tomorrow’s opponents Halifax knocked them out with a golden-point semi-final victory last year.
Realistically, no one deserves to savour the Blackpool experience more than long-serving prop Dickens who has spent more than a decade toiling for the cause at Post Office Road.
But he believes it is the two key managerial figures who deserve the credit in building Featherstone into the leading club outside of Super League.
“We’ve had some tough defeats in the Northern Rail Cup in recent years and are all absolutely delighted to be in the 2012 final,” said Dickens.
“It’s taken a long time to get where we are now, both on and off the field, and a lot of that is down to our coach Daryl Powell and chairman Mark Campbell who have helped turn the club around.
“Personally I’m a big fan of the Northern Rail Cup – it’s great to have a cup competition for the Championship clubs.
“It will be a great day out for the fans getting to watch two of the in-form teams battle it out and hopefully we will be bringing the trophy back to Featherstone at the end of the day.” Rovers have certainly proved themselves as a side capable of handling the biggest occasions, winning last year’s Championship Grand Final against Sheffield Eagles to put the disappointment of the 2010 loss against Halifax behind them.
They have finished top in each of the last two seasons and currently hold a two-point lead at the summit again.
Halifax are their nearest challengers, though, and Dickens accepts: “It’s going to be a tough game; there’s never an easy match when you play them.
“I think over the last three years Halifax have been our biggest rivals. They are a fast-paced team with some quality players and we won’t underestimate them.
“Our defence has been really solid this season and teams have found it hard to break us down but it’s important for us not to get carried away.
“The team that plays the best on the day will be victorious and fingers crossed that will be us.”
Powell, who joined in 2008, admitted: “Winning the Northern Rail Cup has been a target for us for many seasons but we’ve never quite managed it.
“This year we’ve cracked it and got there but it means nothing if we don’t get the win.”
He has doubts over James Lockwood (ankle) and Matty Dale (calf) before finalising his squad but Tangi Ropati (broken jaw) is not deemed ready to be considered.
Halifax will be without ex-Rovers second-row Ross Divorty due to his ankle injury.