WHEN Mark O’Meley has a final word with his team-mates before tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final there will only be one thing the Australian prop reiterates.
The message will have gone out long before and on numerous occasions ahead of a gargantuan tie with holders Warrington Wolves.
Nonetheless, given his own experiences, the veteran front-row will not allow another chance to re-enforce it slip him by.
It will be simple; grab this chance, you might not see another.
At 32, O’Meley knows for certain he never will. He retires at the end of the season, despite his impressive form suggesting he could easily go around again.
So, the rugged forward, who loves nothing better than a little pig-hunting and is known affectionately as Ogre, realises this is his last chance of savouring the famous Wembley experience.
There is a feeling Hull are certainly good enough to grace the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final but equally an underlying and nagging concern that their well-known inconsistencies will surface to deny them the opportunity.
“When you’re young you play in big games but you don’t know how big that game really is until a few years down the track,” O’Meley told the Yorkshire Post.
“Then you look back thinking “Geez, I haven’t had this opportunity again to be in this situation’.
“A lot of it now is about making the young kids – we’re a pretty young squad at Hull – aware of how big this really is.”
Admittedly, for the likes of prolific young winger Tom Lineham, back-row Joe Westerman and even England international Tom Briscoe, there is a chance they may feel such grandiose occasions will become common place.
But O’Meley, who earned 15 Test caps before moving to East Yorkshire from Sydney Roosters four years ago and played ten times for New South Wales, knows full well they could end up living with regrets.
“Probably my first couple of years of (State of) Origin I did take for granted,” he continued, recalling the 2001 and 2002 series.
“You get in there and are itching to play Origin but then it sort of just runs by and you feel again ‘Geez, I could’ve done this or that as we’re two points off the series.’
“As you see now, Queensland are so dominant. That could have been our history book at the time.
“I think we drew a couple and if you pick up some wins in those 50/50 games the record is so different.”
O’Meley was part of a series-winning New South Wales side in 2004 but his final appearances came two years later when Queensland began their remarkable eight-year winning stretch.
While not the same, Warrington are beginning to show a similar record of success in the Challenge Cup as they aim to go on and win a fourth final in just five years.
For all its prestige and 116-year history, however, O’Meley admitted: “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even know anything about it until I got here. The first I heard about it was when I read Brett Hodgson had made the final with Huddersfield (in 2009) and that was in an Australian paper. I was saying ‘What’s this? What are they talking about? But it is a different ball-game to anything else. I’ve been to watch two since I’ve been here and the atmosphere and crowd was amazing. It’s the pinnacle of rugby league in England.”
A trio of O’Meley’s former New South Wales team-mates will be in the Warrington side tomorrow – full-back Hodgson, prolific winger Joel Monaghan and the “handful” second-row Trent Waterhourse out on their left edge.
Those supposedly in the know will say the holders, who have been here so many times before, will do what they always tend to do and squeeze the life out of their optimistic opponents.
Hull, furthermore, have lost five successive Super League games.
“Warrington know what it takes to get to the final and are a really well-balanced side but we’re not too far behind,” he insisted. “We’re not going there thinking we’re going to get pumped by 40. We play a sport where it’s not rosy every week; you’ve got to go through lows to get stronger.”
O’Meley, who won the 2004 NRL Grand final with Canterbury Bulldogs, insists he will not be persuaded into playing again next season – “the missus would kill me” – so Wembley would be a perfect finale.
“It’s not about me, though, or one bloke,” he countered. “It’s about the side. It’s a team effort and reminding all these young blokes of just how important this game is.”