Challenge Cup - No doubt which shirt Castleford Tigers’ Jordan Turner will be wearing at Wembley this time

THE Challenge Cup final next month between Castleford Tigers and St Helens brings with it so many potential feelgood story lines.

For one, there is Daryl Powell, the head coach who has inspired and revived Castleford since joining in 2013 and who leaves at the end of this season seeking to bow out with his first major trophy.

Then there is captain Michael Shenton and Australian prop Grant Millington, admirable campaigners who have been there throughout Powell’s reign.

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Former England centre Shenton played in the club’s last Challenge Cup final when they lost to Leeds Rhinos in 2014 although Millington, cruelly, missed the occassion due to injury.

Approaching their 35th birthdays, this could be their swansong for Tigers, too.

Oli Holmes and Nathan Massey are other survivors from that last Wembley appearance while Pete Mata’utia, Castleford’s Australian centre, could find himself playing against younger brother Sione in the sport’s oldest and most prestigious showpiece.

Then take a look at Jordan Turner who only arrived at Wheldon Road in November, overlooked by incoming Huddersfield Giants coach Ian Watson yet becoming arguably the best signing by any Super League club in 2021.

Continuing in his role as a makeshift winger, the former Hull FC utility, who won a Grand Final with Saints in 2014, scored a hat-trick of tries as classy Castleford ruthlessly swept past Warrington Wolves in Saturday’s shock 35-20 semi-final victory.

Hat-trick star: Castleford's Jordan Turner is congratulated on one of his tries by Michael Shenton. Pictures: SWPix

After reaching his first Challenge Cup final at the age of 32, it was evident just what it meant to Turner as he celebrated with close family on the pitchside at Leigh Sports Village.

He said: “It feels amazing. I’ve dreamed of this moment since being a young boy. We used to have a family trip out to the Challenge Cup final every year.

“My first one was in ’99 and I went for 15 years after that. I owe my family one. They’d save up all year for a full weekend away whether it was at Wembley or Cardiff or Scotland.

“I’d get a new top as I didn’t support a club so whoever was playing I’d support one of them.

Touching down: Castleford Tigers' Gareth O'Brien dives in to score his side's first try.

“It’s time for me to repay them. It’s been a long time coming. Over the years I can remember getting to one semi-final, a quarter-final and some of the early rounds and going over to my mum and wife in the stands saying ‘that’s another year gone.’

“So there was a lot of emotion there. We didn’t know if this moment had gone for us but it’s very much still alive.”

Castleford, who had suffered a record 60-6 defeat at home to Leeds Rhinos eight days previously and lost their last three matches, were brilliant on Saturday.

Powell, who takes over at Warrington in 2022, was able to recall eight players with full-back Niall Evalds, scrum-half Gaz O’Brien –preferred to Danny Richardson – and Holmes excelling.

Attack: Castleford Tigers' Liam Watts drives on.

They were 19-0 up at half-time, O’Brien starting things off and Turner scoring twice when Warrington were reduced to 12 men following Jake Mamo’s yellow card.

Ben Currie and Mamo replied at the start of the second period but Jesse Sene-Lefao replied with a fine score and, even when Castleford saw Jacques O’Neill put in the sin-bin, it did not deter them.

They grew stronger and actually extended their advantage, Turner completing his treble and Paul McShane also crossing in response to Toby King’s effort, meaning Josh Charnley’s try was immaterial.

Ordinarily a centre or stand-off, Turner has excelled in his new role on the wing, taking his season tally to 11 tries and scoring his first treble since one in the Hull derby in 2012.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for the versatile player – “my motto this year has just been to bring my boots” – who still had a year left on his Huddersfield contract.

“When I look back on my career I think I’ve had some really good periods and they have always come on the back of adversity,” he explained.

“There’s no beating around the bush really… I was unwanted six or seven months ago and adversity and people doubting me just brings the best out of me. It makes me just want to prove people wrong. I’ve found an extra bit of form here at Castleford but I knew that when I joined.

“This last move was sort of selected. Without going in to too much detail, I wasn’t really pushed to make a move from Huddersfield but this just came up and it suited me.”

Turner was one of those who endured that embarrassing Leeds defeat and he said: “We just said we had to forget what had happened the week before.

“During the week, there was a lot of emotion riding on this for quite a few fellas who have been the furniture of the club for quite a long time and might be finishing up at the end of the year.

“Some people found an extra five per cent. It was a great win.”

Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner; Trueman, O’Brien; Massey, McShane, Matagi, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Milner. Substitutes: Watts, Foster, O’Neill, Clare.

Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Lineham, Mamo, King, Charnley; Austin, Widdop; Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Davis. Substitutes: Mulhern, Philbin, Akauola, Walker.

Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).