Veteran prop Grant Millington is determined to make up for the heartbreak of 2014 when he runs out at Wembley on Saturday.
Seven years ago the 34-year-old Australian was carrying a knee injury and was forced to watch from the sidelines as Castleford went down to Leeds in the Challenge Cup final.
Millington’s place in Saturday’s showpiece was put in jeopardy when he damaged ligaments in the same knee in the Tigers’ quarter-final win over Salford three months ago.
But he made his comeback on Sunday and has been named in coach Daryl Powell’s team to face St Helens.
“It’s chalkboard and cheese really,” said Millington on his arrival with the squad in London on Thursday evening.
“The heartbreak of missing out in 2014 with exactly the same injury, it was pretty hard to take, watching the boys playing in the biggest game of their lives and I was sitting in the stands feeling sorry for myself.
“It was really emotional seeing the boys walk out in 2014 but I think this time around it’s going to be emotional for different reasons.
“I’m so thankful the boys got the the job done in the semi-final against Warrington.”
Millington, who is in his 10th season with Castleford and out of contract at the end of the year, was in the team that lost the 2017 Grand Final to Leeds and has his eyes set on the first major prize in his career.
“This would be the first one for me,” he said. “Any rugby player plays the game to win trophies and it’s a blessing to get out there and have another crack at it.
“I know it’s going to be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m so excited, I can’t wait for my family to make their way down on the day. Hopefully we can get the job done.”
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St Helens prop Matty Lees is likely to be going through similar emotions after missing the 2019 final against Warrington with a ruptured bowel.
Like Millington, the 23-year-old Lees made his comeback from injury – a broken ankle in his case – at the weekend and looks to have secured a place on the bench on Saturday.
Saints assistant coach Paul Wellens said: “Kristian has not finalised his 17 but we were really pleased with Matty last week, the way he came back having not played for a while.
“I’m sure sure Kristian will give it some deep thought but certainly Matty will come into reckoning.”
Meanwhile, Wellens says St Helens have moved on from the loss of second rower Sione Mata’utia, who misses the final after picking up a one-match ban for a high tackle in last Friday’s game at Wakefield.
“We’re extremely disappointed for Sione,” Wellens said. “He’s been an integral part of the team this year and he was an integral part of us making it to the final.
“We did all we could to try and get that charge downgraded but sadly it wasn’t seen in the same light as we viewed it.
“Sione is naturally disappointed and we’re disappointed for him but that’s done now. In professional sport you have to deal with those things and we’ve moved on from that.
“Sione will be there cheering us on and, if we come away victorious, there will be nobody more pleased than him.”