HULL FC captain Gareth Ellis admits the lack of a Challenge Cup winner’s medal “burns” away at him, but hopes to correct that glaring omission from his fine CV next month.
Furthermore, the quality of Friday’s fierce 16-12 semi-final win over Wigan Warriors – which set up a Wembley meeting with Warrington Wolves on Saturday, August 27 – has added to the former Great Britain international’s belief the Super League leaders are capable of striding forward on all fronts.
Ellis won Grand Finals with Leeds Rhinos in 2007 and 2008, also lifting the World Club Challenge twice before heading to Australia where he earned status as the world’s top second-row during four years with Wests Tigers.
However, he has lost in both his Challenge Cup final appearances, firstly with Leeds – ironically against Hull in 2005 – and then for his current employers versus Wigan in 2013.
“I look at some of my friends who have got several medals and it does burn away a little bit,” said the veteran back-row, who was again so crucial to the East Yorkshire club’s success on Friday.
“It’s the thing I grew up with; I wanted to do two things as a kid – win the Challenge Cup and play for Great Britain.
“I’ve done the latter but the former has eluded me to date. It’s a dark place when you lose at Wembley and it would be nice to finally get my hands on that trophy. We’ll learn from three years ago.
“You go into it believing you’re going to win, but it hurt so badly as we just didn’t give a good account of ourselves (in a 16-0 loss).
“Hopefully things could be different this time around. You always dream there’s a chance.
“We’ve done it tough this year; we’ve beaten Saints, Catalans and Wigan and we’ll have tough opposition against Warrington.
“You do start to think it might have passed you by – I’m 35 now – but here we are again with a chance.”
Fittingly, the final will see this year’s two leading Super League sides – Warrington sit second only one point adrift of Hull as the Super 8s begin this week – battle it out for the game’s oldest and most prestigious trophy.
Whisper it softly, but the imminent contest could also be the first classic final since the showpiece returned to a rebuilt Wembley 10 years ago.
Indeed, this current Hull squad, under the stewardship of Lee Radford, is so much better than three years ago and Warrington – victors in 2009, 2010 and 2012 – remain a thrilling team. Hull have been installed as 4-5 favourites by competition sponsors Ladbrokes while, after Warrington overwhelmed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 56-12 in Saturday’s other semi-final, it is the first final between the clubs in the competition’s 119-year history.
Hull have infamously never won at Wembley, as their 1980 conquerors Hull KR so often remind them, but the in-form squad are confident of eradicating that irritating record once and for all.
Also, Radford’s side, so professional, dogged and utterly unrelenting versus Wigan, feel primed to push on and win their first league title since 1983 and the days of such legends as the late David Topliss, Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton and Lee Crooks.
“It’s given us a real boost going into the Super 8s,” admitted Ellis, with Hull starting at home to his hometown Castleford Tigers on Friday.
“We knew this game (semi-final) was on the horizon, but we’ve shown such confidence this year and ability to win in different ways; they’re good signs for what’s to come over the next seven or eight weeks.
“I’m unbelievably proud. We knew we’d be in for a tough game against Wigan but matched them, which was so pleasing.
“There was some special efforts which prevented a few tries, but I’m very grateful to be on the right side of the result.
“The recruitment has played a big part in everything we’ve done this year.
“Some lads needed a kick up the backside, but they’ve all stood up and really gelled.
“It’s been coming for a while; I believed in this club when I first signed (in 2012) and although we’ve stumbled a bit, it’s coming together now.
“And the effort we showed to defend our own line on Friday was exceptional.
“Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season, this club has taken a massive step forward.
“I’m very proud to be playing my part in this resurgence of Hull FC, but it’s up to the club as a whole to kick on and get behind this.”