McDermott joins lobby for Challenge Cup final to make Spring return

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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Leeds Rhinos’ head coach Brian McDermott has backed plans for the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final to return to its traditional Spring slot.

It is understood the BBC, which televises the famous competition, is keen to bring it forward to May from its current late August staging.

The Rugby Football League – who are presently undergoing a review of the domestic schedule – are thought to be less convinced due to the proximity of Magic Weekend, which is also held that month.

However, St Helens and England second-row Jon Wilkin, chairman of the players’ association 1eagu3, has supported the BBC’s suggestion and McDermott – whose Leeds side host Saints in tomorrow’s televised fifth-round tie – is in agreement.

The Wembley showpiece was held in Spring for most of its 118-year history before being switched in 2005.

Now, only six weeks typically separate it from the Super League Grand Final which has created problems of its own.

On the potential move back, McDermott said: “I like it on all fronts.

“There’s the fact it’s a long-process now; you play this round and then it’s another few weeks before the next and the same again after that.

“The Challenge Cup used to be a shorter, more intense version of what it is now and it really did matter that you came out of the blocks when it was played in Spring.

“Within a number of weeks and couple of months you got through to the final and played it.

“You had to spike early in the year, win that and then go through the season and try win something at the end of it too. I like that as a challenge,” he added.

McDermott won the Challenge Cup as a player with Bradford Bulls against Leeds at Edinburgh in 2000. He was also a losing finalist with Bradford at Wembley in 1996 and guided Leeds there in 2011 and 2012 only to miss out again.

McDermott continued: “(In May) it’s not so hard on the wallet too for the fans who have to go down to Wembley, have a big weekend there and, if they’re lucky, have to back up again a few weeks later (at Old Trafford). I do like the idea of it going back there.”

Ironically, one of the initial reasons for the Challenge Cup being moved to August was that being played so early in the season following the switch to summer rugby was leading to the loss of some of its prestige.

McDermott on Rhinos’ task against St Helens: Page 20.