There are a number of talking points from the Challenge Cup final weekend.
French rugby league has a platform
It has been well-documented that Catalans Dragons were the first non-British team to win the Challenge Cup final on Saturday. It was also their first major trophy in their short existence.
The sport was obliterated in France by the Nazis during the Second World War but rugby league clubs in the country fought back after the war and got the sport back on the map, which in itself was a huge task. Catalans are a success story of the whole ‘franchising’ system and boy oh boy, aren’t we glad to see them in Super League? Their Challenge Cup win now gives them a platform to grow the sport into lesser known areas in France. It can only be good for the sport in general that they have won it, but especially in France.
Gigot an outside contender for man of steel
Everyone seemed to have Ben Barba noted down as their winner for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award until around six weeks ago.
The St Helens full-back has been a little bit quiet in recent games and the attention has drawn away from him. He is still the odds-on favourite to pick up the award and it is important that we don’t forget his gleaming performances for Saints so far, but there is another man to think about and he goes by the name of Tony Gigot
The France international has been nothing short of sensational for Catalans Dragons this year. He had his ban overturned at the start of the season and has come back to the sport even stronger. He inspired the Dragons to a Challenge Cup win on the weekend and was the first Frenchman to ever win the Lance Todd Trophy. He might not get the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, but he should surely be in the running.
Casty deserved historic cup win
When you think of Catalans Dragons, a player who probably springs to mind straight away is captain Remi Casty.
The 33-year-old, who is from Narbonne, has been an integral part of the Dragons set up since making his debut in the club’s inaugural season in Super League back in 2006.
He has spent just one season away from the Perpignan club and that was in 2014, where he made 12 appearances for Sydney Roosters and was part of their World Club Challenge winning side. He has been one of the best forwards in Super League over the last few years now and is liked by many just because he is a traditional, old school front-rower.
It would have been a great shame if Casty had not won anything with the Dragons before he retired and after making over 260 appearances for Catalans, it would be hard to disagree that Casty did not deserve to win the Challenge Cup on Saturday. Let’s hope French rugby league can grow for players like Casty. Yes, papa.
Warrington need to wipe Wembley from minds
Warrington Wolves may have lost in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley and it will no doubt be a gut-wrenching feeling for everyone involved, but they need to move on from their defeat and fast, otherwise they could be pipped in the Super 8s table by Huddersfield Giants.
The fixture schedule hasn’t been too kind to the Wolves either. They face Hull FC on Thursday night, making it a short turnaround from their trip to the capital. Steve Price faces a big task this week to get his players up and motivated for the game, but there is no doubting it can be done.
It may sound completely obvious but Warrington’s heartbreaking Challenge Cup loss could go one or two ways. The defeat could spur them on and they could go on to reach Old Trafford and possibly win the Grand Final, or they could go on a downward spiral and not even make the semi-finals. It is going to be a big couple of weeks for the Wolves.
Events have an effect on lower leagues
The Challenge Cup final had a big effect on the League 1 clash between London Skolars and Keighley Cougars on the weekend and it was a prime example of how big events can help other causes.
Skolars’ home game against the Cougars attracted a solid crowd of 1,043 to the New River Stadium the night before the big final and that may not seem like much, but to a team like Skolars, it is a big deal. They are normally lucky to get a third of that crowd, so no doubt the club have benefited from the extra income from ticket sales.
Another example of why rugby league events can help other causes is Magic Weekend. League 1 side Newcastle Thunder always play on the Friday night before Magic Weekend and they gain great attendances. There were 4,137 at Kingston Park this year to watch their match against Bradford Bulls. Events definitely help rugby league.