Murrell hoping Cup battle can showcase Championship

ALTHOUGH a prized Coral Challenge Cup semi-final place is up for grabs, Halifax captain Scott Murrell feels tomorrow’s intriguing tie against Bradford Bulls is also a great opportunity to “showcase” the Championship’s quality.

Scott Murrell.
Scott Murrell.

They renew their derby rivalry with their West Yorkshire rivals when they head to Odsal for the televised quarter-final.

Whoever prospers will become the first second-tier side since Hull KR in 2006 to reach the famous competition’s last-four.

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Ironically, stand-off Murrell was a burgeoning talent at Rovers back then.

Still just 20, he played in all their games en route, including an epic quarter-final win over Warrington, only to injure his knee in the week of their semi-final meeting with St Helens, missing the game which ended in a 50-0 rout.

Now approaching his 34th birthday, he will be crucial to Halifax’s hopes of being the team that does now get to within 80 minutes of Wembley.

Since leaving the Robins for Halifax at the end of 2012, he has become renowned as one of the second-tier’s best players, his kicking expertise especially proving the scourge of so many opponents.

Although he helped KR to promotion and played more than 100 Super League games with them, guiding his current club – where he is such an iconic figure – into the Challenge Cup semi-finals would certainly be one of his career highs.

Halifax are the form side of the two and beat Bradford recently at the Summer Bash.

“We’ve had four good wins but we were disappointed with the performance against Batley last week,” explained Murrell yesterday, his side side losing 24-16 at Mount Pleasant.

“We’ve trained well this week and are just polishing things off tonight.

“It’s a massive occasion coming up and not just for Halifax or Bradford but the Championship as the whole, just to showcase what talent’s around here.

“It’s a very good competition and, personally, I think it needs to be televised a little bit more to showcase the talent what’s on show.

“When you look at the talent that’s come through this division – people like Alex Walmsley and Chris Hill – who have gone onto become England players there is that talent here and it would be good to show everyone that at the weekend.”

Bradford arrive having claimed the Super League scalp of Leeds Rhinos in the last round and hopeful of another sizeable Odsal crowd to lift them further.

The return from injury of former Kiwi centre Jake Webster is timely and Bulls coach John Kear also brings Dalton Grant and Rowan Milnes back in after they missed Sunday’s hefty 42-4 defeat to Featherstone Rovers.

Perhaps both sides, then, have had one eye on tomorrow’s tie, again televised live by the BBC as was that shock Rhinos loss.

Murrell’s battle with Jordan Lilley, the talented young stand-off who this week signed a two-year deal at Bradford having been on loan from Leeds, will be fascinating. Both hail from Leeds where Murrell still has strong links given he coaches at his former club Drighlington.

“I’m at the same amateur club as (Bradford players) Ross Oakes and Liam Kirk,” he said.

“I know those two and still speak to them both. Ross’s mum works in the bar at the club where I coach Drig’ Under 8s where my son plays.

“It’s going to be a big occasion for Drighlington as well as Halifax and Bradford and I’m sure it’ll be a forward battle.

“They have a quality pack as have we so should be a good forward battle down the middle.

“Bradford have some quality players like Jordan Lilley and Ethan Ryan who is playing really, really really well.

“It will be a tough game but we’ll be up for it.”

It’s part of Murrell’s remit now to make sure they are; he has been promoted to assistant player-coach since team-mate Simon Grix took over from Richard Marshall as head coach at the end of April.

On life as a coach, he said: “I’m still playing but Grixy’s not playing at the moment as he’s concentrating on his coaching.

“It’s going really well. It makes a change to just watching the preview; now I’m watching three or four games a week on who we’re preparing to play against.

“It is a little bit different for me but I really enjoying it and am really enjoying being under Grixy.

“I can’t wait for Sunday, though. The last few years we’ve been knocked out in the first round so to get a chance to play in the quarter-final alone is massive.”

Everest challenge for Kear: Page 10