While Leeds coach Brian McDermott took the unusual step of naming his 17 for the Tetley’s Challenge Cup Final five days in advance, counterpart Daryl Powell is playing his cards closer to his chest.
The Rhinos will start with the same team that beat Warrington to reach the final, though much of that uncertainty at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle is due to the dislocated elbow suffered by prop Craig Huby in the semi-final defeat of Widnes.
If Huby is fit then there is no doubt that he will take his chance alongside Andy Lynch in the front row. However, he hasn’t been able to train for well over a week now and his Powell is no more than hopeful that he will be able to join in any sessions before Saturday.
“He’s obviously had a pretty bad injury there but he hasn’t broken anything so we’ll see how he goes later in the week. He’s going to be a last minute decision.
“I haven’t given the team to the players. We’ve looked sharp and yet nice and relaxed in training. We’ve got three more sessions to work on things but as for the 17, yes, I know it but I’m keeping that to myself at the moment.”
Powell has been both a winner and loser in Challenge Cup finals with Leeds. As a coach he was in charge when they lost to Bradford Bulls in the 2003 decider in Cardiff, though he has happier memories of his 1999 experience, when as a player he was part of a record-breaking success against the London Broncos.
“It was a big day. It was 1978 before that that Leeds had won the Challenge Cup so there was a similar sort of storyline as there is for both clubs in that it hadn’t happened for a while.
“I actually got injured in the semi-final and in the final I came off at half-time with a calf problem but I loved being out there in the first-half.
“I had a hand in the first try that Leroy Rivett scored. It was a great day. I look back at the photograph from afterwards and my two young girls were on it and Graham Murray was the coach. He did a wonderful job and it was a pleasure to play for him and Leeds at that time.”
Now 15 years on, Powell will attempt to mastermind and motivate the Tigers to a win over his old club, though he says that there will be no Churchillian speeches in the Wembley dressing room.
“I just think we need to stay calm and relaxed. I think we did that for the semi-final. That worked out well for us.
“For the players it’s a game. They’ve got to perform on a big stage in front of a big crowd, but ultimately it’s the grass and pitch and doing the job, minimising the opposition and doing the things that we work on every week.
“It’s really important that they stay grounded for that and when you are coaching a side you take the lead in terms of how hyped up the players are going to be.
“Obviously for me the big job this week is to give the players a plan that they’ve been outstanding at applying all year and try to keep them nice and relaxed. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
In the two games between the teams in the Super League this season, Leeds have won one, while Castleford snatched a late draw at Headingley recently. Tactically, the Tigers have shown that they can mix it with the best during this campaign and Powell may have something up his sleeve for the team to work with at Wembley.
“You never know. It’s always an option to throw something out there,” he said with a smile.
“I think Leeds are a quality side. To break them down you need to play exceptionally well and the plays that you throw at them need to be effective.
“We’ve had a bit of a blue print all year and it’s challenged Leeds a couple of times and we’ll look to do the same again, although we recognise that they are a difficult team to break down.
“They’ve got good players but every player has his weakness whichever side he’s in so we’ll be trying to isolate some of the things that we feel can cause them the most damage.”