THE prospect of silencing the mighty Wigan Warriors and enacting a major Challenge Cup giant-killing act isn’t such an enormous task when you have waged war with a raging bull.
It is safe to say riding bulls sits under the definite “do not” column when it comes to off-field activities to avoid in a player’s contract.
Nevertheless, for London Broncos forward Shane Rodney, it was all commonplace before the rugged Australian entered the world of professional sport.
The country-boy from Tamworth in New South Wales loved life as a rodeo until a brutal accident when still at school made him realise rugby league might actually be a safer option.
“Riding bulls wasn’t unusual for me growing up,” admitted Rodney, now just 80 minutes from Wembley as he prepares for this afternoon’s semi-final against Wigan at Leigh.
“My dad used to do it all the time and I knew nothing else.
“Most weekends I would go along to watch him at shows and rodeos all over the country.
“He was quite good and even went over to America to do it over there. It may seem a bit strange but not at all when you grew up in the countryside. It was tough but just part of what went on.
“I started to ride bulls as well but didn’t win any prizes or anything. It was more of a hobby.
“I was about 15 when it all stopped. One day I got thrown off, the bull stamped on my head and hurt my face really badly.
“After that I decided playing rugby league was a lot easier and safer. The only bulls I’ve been on since are the mechanical variety. And I wasn’t very good on them either!”
Undoubtedly, Rodney – who fractured his jaw and shattered an eye socket in that accident – has since proved his worth as a rugby player.
Not long after that riding escape, the determined second-row won an NRL Grand Final with Penrith in 2003, adding his second title two years ago in Manly colours before moving to Super League and life in the capital. He would love to add the famous Challenge Cup to those accolades as London bid to reach only a second-ever final, the first being a defeat against Leeds Rhinos in the last final at the old Wembley in 1999.
Of course, it won’t be easy; bottom of the league having endured another miserable campaign with just three victories in 22 outings, Tony Rea’s side struggled even to get past Championship clubs Featherstone Rovers and Sheffield Eagles en route.
Wigan, meanwhile, are just a point off the top and have that amazing history in the Challenge Cup – having won it in eight successive seasons between 1988 and 1995.
No team has lifted the trophy more times than any other club and today’s game will be a record-extending 45th semi-final in the sport’s oldest competition which they last won against Leeds just two years ago.
Furthermore, in their two games against London this season they have amassed an incredible 112 points.
“It’s been a tough year,” admitted Rodney, pictured below, one of many high-class recruits in a Broncos squad that have badly under-performed.
“We had high expectations at the start of it but we have not lived up to our ability.
“We’ve been in a lot of games but not played for the full 80 minutes and that’s been frustrating. The Challenge Cup has been something different. It’s a big challenge for us against Wigan but one we are excited about. It’s a one-off game and we will be putting everything into it.”
Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin is urging his players to ignore the pundits who have made them overwhelming favourites to reach the Wembley final. O’Loughlin, who led Wigan to their 18th cup final victory in 2011, insists there is no danger of complacency.
“We’re 100 per cent not underestimating anyone,” O’Loughlin said. “We’re expecting to play the best London side we’ve ever played against.
“There’s a lot riding on this game for them and we’re expecting all their players to be better than when we’ve played them in the past. They will have been disappointed with how they went against us and will want to rectify that as well as getting to the final. They will go into the game thinking, if they can disrupt us and put us off our game, then they have a chance and they definitely do have a chance.”
O’Loughlin is not expecting any favours from team-mate Rhodri Lloyd who is on a month’s loan at London Broncos and will face his parent club today.
“It will be strange playing against a kid who has been training with us week in, week out for the past couple of years,” O’Loughlin said. “But once he’s got that shirt on, he’ll be doing everything he can to get London to the final.”