The Championship Summer Bash is taking place this Saturday and Sunday, but what people might not be aware of is the first domestic silverware is also up for grabs when North Wales Crusaders go head-to-head with Barrow for the League One Cup (Saturday, 12.00pm kick-off).
Crusaders warmed up in style at the weekend with a comprehensive win over London Skolars, while an under strength Barrow went down 70-2 at Toronto.
This season is the first in tenure for North Wales boss Mike Grady who previously served as Head Coach of South Wales before a short stint on the coaching team at Newcastle.
“I’m really looking forward to it – excited as well,” said Grady. “It’s going to be a tough game and I’d imagine an enjoyable game for people watching, but I’m really excited and am looking forward to the day.”
Crusaders made the final with away wins at York (by golden point), Newcastle and Gloucestershire All Golds.
“It’s going to be my biggest day as coach in the professional game – I did have one with Warrington Wizards in the amateur game, but this is my first in the professional ranks,” Grady added.
“Our route to the final was tough, very tough, but I think we deserve to be there. We had three big away games and deserve to be in that final. We deserve to be there and the boys can’t wait and hopefully we will win. We enjoy the adversity and will have a good seventeen out.
“We have been a bit inconsistent but at the weekend we had a good win over London. We really put Skolars to the sword and played well from the first to the last minute but we lost at All Golds and we lost to Hunslet away which I was really disappointed about because I didn’t think they were that much better than us, although it proved differently on the day.
“It’s been a bit up and down – let’s just hope it’s an up at the weekend!”
With it being a cup final, form will fly out of the window, something Grady certainly acknowledges while also accepting Barrow are favourites.
“I never put any pressure on my players and this week I think everyone is doing my job for me,” he said. “Everyone is speaking about Barrow going up with Toronto in the league and also about them winning this cup final.”
“They are the favourites, we are the underdogs. There is no pressure on us and like you said it’s all about what happens on the day. Barrow have had a tough couple of games and we have had a home game.
“There are two ways of looking at it. You could look at their last two results and think they were coming in and confidence could be low, while on the other side of the coin they might want to put things right, get a win and get back on the board.
“You can’t look too much into it – I’m just hoping that on the day we are firing and we take all of the opportunities that arise.”
Having narrowly missed going out of business last year, the loyal Crusaders fans have been creating their own atmosphere at games all year and interest in this final has further galvanised the club.
“Andy Moulsdale, our General Manager, I don’t think he has stopped!” Grady said.
“We’ve filled two coaches up to now and people can’t wait for it. I don’t think anyone expected us to be in this final. In the last twelve months a lot of things have happened a lot of things have changed, including the ground, coaches, players. It was a tough off-season, but the fans are glad.
“They are fantastic and loud all the way through games, while Barrow too have a good following so it has the making of a really good atmosphere.”
This is one game that isn’t going to appear on Sky Sports TV screens. You can still get tickets by contacting the RFL, while Love Rugby League will be provide a full match report and reaction from the game as part of our Summer Bash coverage.