Dean Hadley is desperate to make it a ‘cross-city double’ for himself this weekend as he and his Hull KR team-mates vie for glory at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final against Leigh Leopards.
Albeit an unused member of the squad that day, the utility forward picked up a winners’ medal in the competition back in 2016, chosen by Lee Radford as Hull FC’s 18th man for their triumph over Warrington Wolves.
Fast forward seven years, and Hadley is now preparing to go into a showpiece event under the arch for the team from the east side of the city having made the move there in 2019 as a loanee, and permanently the following year.
For reference, the England Knights international was still contracted to FC when they went back-to-back in the Challenge Cup in 2017, though was on a season-long loan at Wakefield Trinity.
Nonetheless, having been around the Black and Whites set-up over those two years and experienced the two cup triumphs, he’s hungry for a second bite at the cherry in the capital this weekend.
Dean Hadley: Hull born and bred
Born and raised in the city, Hadley is very much a proud Yorkshireman. In fact, he’s played for four clubs over the course of his career, and all four have been situated inside of his home county.
Rivals FC and KR have – at least so far – been the only permanent ones, with stints on dual-registration or loan at York, Doncaster, and Wakefield as mentioned above. Accordingly, he’s well aware of what a win on Saturday could mean to the red and white half of the city.
Speaking to Love Rugby League, the 31-year-old said: “Being a Hull lad and being brought up in the city, still living there, I know exactly what it means.
“Hull for me is a rugby city, there’s so much tradition and history there. I was a part of the Hull (FC) team that won it in 2016, and I saw the impact that win had on them. Hopefully we can go out there and get the job done on Saturday, I know the impact that it will have on the place if we do.
“I always get stopped by fans out and about during the week asking about the game that we’ve got coming up, and I know that they’re just as excited as we are as players.
“My fiancée and kids, mum and dad, grandparents, they’re all there on Saturday. They’ll be supporting me and cheering me on, and that’s what rugby league is all about.
“For me, it’ll be a real proud moment. To see my family up in the stands will be a great moment and one I’m really excited about.
“It’s important not to get lost in that excitement as players, but I do fully understand the impact that a win could have on the club, and importantly the fans.”
Hunger inside the Hull KR camp to do it for Shaun Kenny-Dowall
When the Robins take to the field against the Leopards this weekend, their supporters won’t be the only motivation factor.
Captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall will retire at the end of 2023, taking up a role at the club within the youth coaching set-up for next year.
And although the skipper has already spoken about not making it all about himself as KR look to seal some major silverware, Hadley admitted it’s playing in the back of his mind, and the minds of the rest of the squad.
He affirmed: “We’re a real tight knit group, and Skids is massively influential on that.
“He’s been great for us over the last few years since he’s come, and he’s just a great leader.
“He has a real presence about him, and he’s someone that when he speaks, people listen. You have to listen because his actions back that up as well.
“Skids is not only a great player but he’s a great bloke as well, and he’s been a great captain for us.
“If we were able to win on Saturday, it’d be a great way for him to end his career by lifting silverware, for sure.”
Hadley discusses potential influence of final on rest of season
In what is Willie Peters’ first year in charge at Craven Park, KR have already gone one better than last year in the Challenge Cup. 2022 saw them exit the competition at the semi-final stage, beaten at Elland Road by Huddersfield Giants.
If they’re to go one better in Super League, they’ll have to make the play-offs, something they didn’t quite manage last year with an eighth-placed finish, four points outside the top six.
As we now enter the business end of the current season, the Robins have 22 points from their 21 games played and occupy that sixth spot.
Hadley doesn’t believe Saturday’s final will have any bearing on how the remainder of 2023 shapes up for Peters’ side.
The Hull KR ace added: “I’d like to think that it wouldn’t (affect the rest of the season) because of the type of team that we are, but it’s hard to say. We’re a really good group who are hard-working.
“We know we have had a couple of patches this year where we’ve not quite been at it, or not got the results, but we’ve always bounced back.
“We’ll obviously go all out on Saturday wanting to win the game, and we’ll see what happens, but what happens, we’ll either respond or kick on (in the league), I’m sure.”