Handforth ready for special final

Paul ‘Tiger’ Handforth believes Bloomfield Road will be as special as Wembley when the Batley captain leads out his team for the Northern Rail Cup final against Widnes on Sunday.

The half-back, who has adopted the nickname of his father Tony, the former Wakefield half-back, is one of the more senior members of the Batley side and has Northern Rail Cup final experience having played in Castleford Tigers’ 2005 defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers.

“These days there is very little chance of anyone outside of Super League ever going to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final, so the Northern Rail Cup is our Challenge Cup,” said Handforth.

“The competition is similar to how the Challenge Cup used to be – it didn’t matter if you were in the top league or the division below, if you put a good Cup run together you could win it.”

The winners of the Northern Rail Cup final will be eligible to apply for a Super League Licence in 2011 and, whilst it’s unlikely that Batley will be focusing on this, Handforth knows just how much this final means to the club.

“I think the match is massively important especially to Batley who haven’t been in a final for a very long time,” he said.

“It is not only great for the players and supporters but also great for the people who work hard behind the scenes.”

Batley have played Widnes three times this season and there has been little between the sides with one win each and a draw. There are no certainties in the game but Handforth is aware Widnes Vikings have an impressive history in major Rugby League finals.

Handforth added: “Past results mean nothing. At Batley we’re always underdogs but I think I would prefer to go into the game as underdogs.”

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