IT IS absolutely ridiculous that Warrington Wolves – the new Challenge Cup winners – are playing again on Thursday night.
Steve Price’s side put in a terrific display to beat big St Helens at Wembley on Saturday so to now ask them to play back in Super League at Salford on Thursday is just mind-boggling.
I really can’t get my head around it to think that the Challenge Cup victors – even being the RFL’s showpiece event – are asked to roll out again so soon.
You should be able to celebrate. Fans do, players do and there is no reason whatsoever that any team involved in the final – the runners-up, too – should ever be expected to play on the following Thursday.
I can’t think of a logical reason for it. There’s likely to be injuries so players will struggle to recover and be ready to play but of course there are those celebrations as well to take into consideration and player-welfare.
While Warrington and Saints slugged it out in the sun at Wembley on Saturday, there’s 10 other teams who have essentially had two weeks off. And they will have had proper ‘off, off’ time in that spell – days off, been away on holiday, rested – to get their bodies ready for this weekend coming up. It seems unfair really. It happened to us when we won the Cup in 2017.
We lost at Leeds the Thursday after Wembley and without a doubt the fixture planning needs to change so that no side that features in the Challenge Cup should ever have to back-up in that televised Thursday fixture.
Maybe we should have kicked up more of a stink about it at the time. If anything, it waters that match down if it involves a Challenge Cup finalist.
As for the final itself, I think many people were hoping that Saints – having been far and away the best team this season – might actually come unstuck on the big day.
I think neutrals were hoping for that and they obviously did Saturday.
Warrington played a perfect game and very similar to how they played us in the semi-final; very disciplined, got behind their kicking game, defended great and once you get into that grind with points on the board, as an opponent it’s hard to find your way out of it especially in that heat.
Saints struggled to. Warrington were worthy winners.
As for what happens next with Warrington, I’ve been in that same position only a couple of years ago.
It can go one of two ways. One is that they will sniff blood and think ‘right, let’s go and get it all.’
They’ve beaten the runaway leaders of the competition and I’m sure that will give them a huge amount of confidence for Old Trafford, too.
Or you rest on your laurels. It happens a lot where you have a bit of a blip after winning at Wembley.
From Saints’ point of view, I’m sure they’ll be massively disappointed.
Having lost at Wembley before and twice losing a Challenge Cup final, I know how tough it is. It really is.
But I think it should give Saints extra motivation leading into the last three games of the season and the play-offs.
Knowing that they have been so good this year and then obviously faltering as they have done in the Challenge Cup final, I’m sure that will be added motivation now to go on and take the Grand Final.