Giants Up Against It

Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams

This Saturday is the biggest day in the domestic rugby league calendar – for many people the biggest day in the rugby league universe. It is Powergen Challenge Cup final day with Huddersfield Giants and the giants St Helens going head to head for the magnificent old trophy.

Riding high at the top of the engage Super League table – St Helens will be overwhelming favourites for this game; especially considering the injuries in the Huddersfield camp. Chris Thorman, Brad Drew, Paul Reilly, Stuart Donlan and Martin Aspinwall will all be missing from the Giants side that lines up at Twickenham.

All this means that Huddersfield – already underdogs going into the game – will need a Herculean effort to stand any chance of toppling the mighty Saints.

With Thorman and Drew out Huddersfield would have to pick Kevin Brown at scrum half, but the former Wigan man is ineligible for the final. This leaves 19-year-old Tom Hemmingway likely to start the game in the crucial half-back role.

Hemmingway has only played six Super League games so far this campaign. However he did look impressive against Wigan Warriors on Friday night (although it has to be said – Wigan, for all their improvements, are not St Helens).

But there is a historical precedent for this. In 1953 Huddersfield met Saints in the cup final, with 19-year-old Peter Ramsden in the team. Not only did the Fartowners – as then they were – lift the trophy, but Ramsden scored a brace of tries and took the Lance Todd Trophy.

Could history repeat itself? It would be daft to suggest that St Helens were anything other than overwhelming favourites; but that's the beauty of rugby league – you never know.

Britain's Loss Is Wales' Gain

Kieron Cunningham's announcement that he will be sitting out this autumn's Gillette Tri-Nations came as something of a surprise; but when you think about it his decision must be understandable.

The St Helens hooker wants to spend some time with his family – something that spending six weeks down under would not allow. While many have criticised his decision I applaud his bravery in putting his family before rugby league.

Cunningham has not, however, ruled out playing for Wales in this year's 2008 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.. The Welsh board has named a few Super League players – including Iestyn Harris – and it looks as though they stand a decent chance of making into the tournament finals.

If Cunningham does decide to play for the Dragons it will be a boost for the World Cup at such an early stage; showing that the big players are taking the tournament seriously. Hopefully both Cunningham and Harris will bring a surge of interest in the Welsh team – resulting in greater media coverage and attendances.

This autumn will see a feast of international rugby league in the British Isles, with Wales, Scotland and Ireland taking part in the World Cup qualifiers and England playing for the inaugural Federation Shield.

Hopefully with Great Britain playing down under those fans who would normally attend the Lions' matches will turn out to support our four teams in their respective quests.

Fax In Trouble

The news that Halifax could go out of existence in as little as three weeks came as a shock; even though it's no secret that the club has had more than its fair share of financial troubles. Fax might still be saved if they can draw 5-6,000 people to their game with Whitehaven on 3rd September.

I hope that does happen – and there's every chance that neutral fans, in true rugby league sprit, will turn up at the Shay to help the club out. But they shouldn't have to. There are enough rugby league fans in Halifax who don't go to the games; the fault lies with them.

Many of them have stopped supporting their club since the ill-fated 2003 season. If they had stayed the club might not be in this position now.

Many people in Halifax support Bradford Bulls – a club that is in such a healthy financial state they can afford to break the salary cap. If they supported their home town team Halifax might not be in this position now.

It's a sad day when any rugby league club finds itself in such difficulties; even sadder when the club is one that has graced the game over such a long period of time. Hopefully this scare will encourage Halifax people to start supporting their team.

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