Huddersfield Giants veteran Chris Hill treating Challenge Cup final as swansong

When Chris Hill walks out at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, there is no chance of the 34-year-old taking the occasion for granted.

Hill will be the most experienced player on show when Huddersfield Giants and Wigan Warriors lock horns in the capital, at least in terms of Challenge Cup final appearances.

The prop has featured in the showpiece event on four occasions, getting his first taste 10 years ago with Warrington Wolves.

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Hill has experienced the highs and lows of the final, enjoying memorable wins in 2012 and 2019 either side of painful defeats in 2016 and 2018.

Chris Hill celebrates the semi-final win over Hull KR. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Now in the twilight of his career, Hill is approaching this year’s Challenge Cup final as if it is his last.

“There’s always excitement,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first or your 50th. It’s another major final and there are only two a year.

“When you’re getting on you don’t know if there will be another one so I’m enjoying it and loving it.

Chris Hill celebrates Jermaine McGillvary's try at Elland Road. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I’ve told the boys they need to enjoy things like this because you don’t know when it will come around again.

“Lads [at other clubs] are on holiday now and having a bit of time off but I tell you now, they’d swap it to be here answering a few questions with a game to look forward to on Saturday.”

Eyebrows were raised when Hill swapped Warrington for Huddersfield at the end of 2021, ending his 10-year spell at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

The former England front-rower is already reaping the benefits of his move across the Pennines.

Chris Hill lifts the trophy at Wembley in 2019. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I knew I needed a change at the beginning of last year,” he said.

“You get it in every walk of life where you need a change. It was nothing to do with the lads or the club, it was me needing something different.

“You could say I felt stale. I just needed to take myself out of my comfort zone with a new challenge.

“I’d never travelled before and only knew a couple of the boys going in there with Jez [Jermaine McGillvary] and Leroy [Cudjoe], and I played with Watto [Ian Watson] at Leigh - that’s how old I am.

Chris Hill appears dejected at Wembley in 2016. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“It’s taken me out of my comfort zone but I’m loving it.”

With Huddersfield fourth in Super League as they prepare for a Challenge Cup final and Warrington down in eighth, Hill’s decision has already been vindicated.

He never had any doubts that the Giants would challenge this year once he heard the club’s recruitment plans.

“That was one of my main reasons for coming - the talent we had and who we signed,” said Hill.

“When Watto told me we’d signed Theo [Fages] I thought he was trying to pull my pants down. How he got that one across the line I’ll never know.

“It was the ambition of Watto and [owner] Ken [Davy] who lives and breathes Huddersfield Giants.

“There’s a lot of history in Huddersfield that you might not know about if you’re not from that area, me included before I joined. Watto brought a bit of that in and it gets you into the club a little bit more.”

The Giants still have a major obstacle to overcome if they are to take the Challenge Cup trophy back to the town for the first time in 69 years.

Wigan are being billed as the favourites but all bets are off as far as Hill is concerned.

“That’s fine, no worries,” he said. “They’re a big club, aren’t they?

“They’ve got rich history in the Challenge Cup in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They’ve got every right to be favourites but I don’t think there’s much between us in league form or head to head. They probably see it a different way which is fine.

“It’s down to who turns up, performs and takes their chances. It’s another 80-minute game.

“It’s a big game but you’ve got to play the game and not the occasion. You can’t get caught up in other things like your missus and kids, or your mum and dad texting you about tickets.

“You’ve got to get all that rubbish out of the way and focus on enjoying the week. The build-up is the biggest thing.”

Hill will not lead the Giants out at Tottenham - that honour belongs to Luke Yates - but the veteran forward is an important member of the leadership team.

With one eye on Huddersfield Town’s Wembley clash with Nottingham Forest on Sunday for a place in the Premier League, Hill has been helping to set the tone in the build-up.

“I’m lucky enough to have played 500 games and every one has been a privilege,” he said.

“These are the big games and the reasons you go out training on your own during Covid or running up hills when you were 16, 17.

“These are the moments and that’s what I’ve been saying to the lads.

“It’s a big weekend for the town in general. I don’t think anyone will be left in Huddersfield and we’re really looking forward to making history.”