Tetley's Challenge Cup: Brian McDermott eager for Leeds Rhinos to win the Cup
Last Updated: 22/08/14 2:20pm
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott will be aiming to help lift the weight of history from the shoulders of his ageing stars when he leads them out at Wembley on Saturday.
McDermott is a former Cup winner with Bradford but his old Bulls team-mate Jamie Peacock is the only member of the Rhinos team to have experienced the joy of winning rugby league's famous knockout trophy and that was away from Wembley.
Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Ryan Bailey and Jamie Jones-Buchanan have formed the nucleus of the Leeds team that won Super League's Grand Final at Old Trafford a record six times, as well as the World Club Challenge three times, in the last decade but are still waiting to complete the final piece of the jigsaw.
I've listened to them all talk about it. I don't think they go searching the streets for answers or looking in the stars because they've all by their own right been very successful in everything except the Challenge Cup.
Leeds will be playing in their 24th Cup final - only Wigan with 30 have made more final appearances - and are looking to win it for the 12th time, though a seventh defeat in the last 14 years would set a new record of 13 losses.
Most of the neutrals at Wembley are sure to be supporting underdogs Castleford but few would begrudge Sinfield and company from completing their set of medals.
"That's my job," McDermott said. "And if I can deliver it, it would mean a fair bit to me.
"I've listened to them all talk about it. I don't think they go searching the streets for answers or looking in the stars because they've all by their own right been very successful in everything except the Challenge Cup.
"It's the missing piece in the jigsaw and I know it means a lot to them. If I can deliver that, I'd be over the moon. I'd be over the moon for myself as well."
Since they last lifted the trophy at the old Wembley in 1999, with a 52-16 win over London Broncos, the Rhinos have lost finals in 2000 (Bradford at Murrayfield), 2003 (Bradford at Cardiff), 2005 (Hull at Cardiff), 2010 (Warrington at Wembley), 2011 (Wigan at Wembley) and 2012 (Warrington at Wembley).
McDermott has been at the helm for Leeds' last two defeats but it has not dulled his enthusiasm for the 117-year-old competition.
"That novelty never wears off," he said. "There's a lot of ceremony involved compared to a Grand Final, where you feel like you could turn up in your jeans and flip-flops and it would still be a big event.
"There's a fair bit of protocol you've got to go through at Wembley. I suppose as a young player or coach, it's a bit of a pain, you think 'let's get on and play'.
"But when you get older - and some of these lads have been in a few - you start to enjoy it, start meeting a few people. You know you are on show and that you are representing our sport."
Despite their losing habit at Wembley, McDermott is hoping his side's big-match experience will count for something against Daryl Powell's Castleford, who won at Wigan in the quarter-finals and recently held Leeds to a draw at Headingley.
"I don't think it will give us a massive edge but it certainly helps us in preparation and, if you can get on the field and feel a bit more confident because of the preparation you've had, it gives you an edge," he continued.
"But, when the whistle blows, I don't think Cas will be too bothered about how many finals we've appeared in.
"We lost at their place in 2013 and this year had two very challenging games. I am sure they will be confident - they broke us down a couple of times in both those games, so it's on.
"What we're not doing is planning for a team that chokes. Cas won't choke, I guarantee it. They won't get there and freeze. We're planning for a good Cas."