THERE was a point at the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final press conference earlier this week when Gareth Ellis and Jamie Peacock – two true rugby league greats – were locked deep in conversation.
Looking on from afar, you could only speculate about the subject matter.
Past glories together with Leeds Rhinos perhaps? After all, the media gathering was taking place at Headingley, the scene of so many such celebrations.
Maybe reminiscing about 2006, beating the Australians united in Great Britain colours on that famous night in Sydney? No, too romantic.
Or possibly Peacock priming the Hull FC captain ready for a television interview recorded for the competition’s sponsor?
Well, actually, that did bizarrely crop up; former England captain Peacock is certainly juggling many varied roles since retirement.
One of those roles, of course, is as Hull KR football manager which brings us back to Ellis.
Barely a few days earlier, he had announced he would take the same duties with city rivals Hull once he hangs up his own boots at the end of this season meaning the old warriors will soon be back in the same business but very different to their usual arenas.
“Yes, there was a conflict of interests there!” said Ellis, when chatting to The Yorkshire Post.
“When it comes to being a football manager, obviously JP will be one of the first people I go to for advice. Maybe we’ll have to do it behind closed doors, though, so there’s no prying eyes of Hull FC or Hull KR supporters!
There’s no revenge factor Saturday. We’re up against a team who will be bang at it, who have been playing well for a number of weeks and with key players back. But this is what you play for.Hull FC captain, Gareth Ellis
“He’s someone who’s been very influential on my career from a playing point of view and I’m sure I can learn a lot from him in his off-field role at KR as well.
“I didn’t speak to him about it before deciding. I knew JP is obviously doing the job there and he’ll be far more advanced in his development of it than I will be when I take over the role.
“It’s a job I’m really looking forward to. I’ll have a lot to learn but my decisions and career moves in life have always been slightly uncomfortable. They’ve not exactly been what my heart always tells me to do. But, head-wise, I know what gets the best out of me. I know this role could be the answer post-playing.”
First, though, there is the small matter of a Wembley final to contend with as Ellis seeks to become the first captain in Hull’s history to lift the Challenge Cup in successive years.
The veteran forward is already a Black and Whites hero, having at last led them to a first Wembley win 12 months ago.
However, he wants more. It was one of the reasons he joined when leaving his hugely-successful NRL stint with Wests Tigers at the end of 2012; to turn the sleeping giants into a club that would consistently win silverware.
Ellis’s heart – as he referred to earlier – said head back to Peacock and Leeds to pick up from where he left off in 2008; amassing trophies with the pre-eminent Rhinos.
But that would have been too easy. He wanted to be “uncomfortable”, he wanted to be challenged. Thankfully, for Hull, he chose them.
Clearly, one swallow does not make a summer, just as one trophy does not make a dynasty, which is why the 36-year-old will be straining every sinew to overcome Wigan today and return the Challenge Cup back along Clive Sullivan Way.
He was unable to prevent losing 16-0 to them in the 2013 final but Hull – also now chasing a maiden Super League title – have matured vastly since then.
Ellis, once rated the greatest second-row in the world, recalled: “That still does hurt, more due to how we played; we didn’t give ourselves a chance.
“But on the other side of that, probably that hurt inspired us to winning things in 2016.
“Like anything in life, you maybe learn more from bad experiences than good ones.
“There’s no revenge factor Saturday. We’re up against a team who will be bang at it, who have been playing well for a number of weeks and with key players back.
“But this is what you play for. We loved it all last year and want to do it all again. We need to.”
This is his last Wembley appearance. Will the famously tough and professional Yorkshireman be emotional?
“I think that’s the challenge,” explained Ellis.
“You do get emotional about it as you know how much is at stake and having experienced both sides of it you know the difference between winning and losing. There’s a big contrast.
“It’s hard to not get emotional about it and I suppose big games like this you do want to get excited; you don’t want to be too stern and down the line.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s whatever you need to do to get the best out of yourself as you have to go out there and play well. It’s being disciplined to get the balance right.”
Finally, how does Peacock rate as an interviewer?
“Yeah, he did a good job actually,” he said.
“There’s not much he can’t do: public speaker, motivational talker, pundit, football manager, you name it. It was only 12 months ago he stopped playing.”
Ellis is still playing. His last stand should be immense.