Tom Briscoe was a three-time Challenge Cup winner with Leeds Rhinos, but admits winning it with Leigh Leopards this Saturday at Wembley against Hull KR would be a bigger achievement, calling the potential of that happening ‘absolutely incredible’.
The winger first enjoyed a trophy lift in the capital in 2014 as Leeds saw off Castleford Tigers. Six years later, behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, he then starred in the Rhinos’ triumph over Salford Red Devils.
Briscoe crossed for a try in both of those successes, but most notably – sandwiched between the two noted above – was Leeds’ 2015 victory at Wembley against none other than the Robins. The Featherstone-born man got over for five tries in a 50-0 thumping win against KR.
Tom Briscoe on potential of an ‘absolutely incredible’ weekend
After nine seasons with the Rhinos, Briscoe penned a deal with the newly-promoted and re-branded Leopards ahead of 2023.
He’s so far grabbed 16 tries in 24 appearances for Adrian Lam’s side, and is all set for a 25th on Saturday at the national stadium, with eyes on the prize.
Briscoe said: “It’s everyone’s boyhood dream that plays rugby league to get to a Challenge Cup final, and I feel very privileged and proud to have done it so many times. I’ve achieved numerous times what some players don’t achieve [once] in a whole career, so it’s definitely a competition I’ve got a lot of fond memories in.
“It’d mean a lot [to go and win it for Leigh]. Doing it at a club like Leeds, it’s kind of expected and the expectation is there every year to go on and be successful, especially after the teams that have been there before.
“To come to a newly-promoted club and get to the final with the success we’ve had is an achievement in itself. That success has been built on the season they had here last year and them bringing in new players.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Adrian for the way he’s brought the team together in such a short space of time. It’s showing on the field that everyone’s enjoying it, we’re scoring some good tries and playing some good rugby.”
Briscoe on continuing the rise of the Leopards
Before the winger’s time at the club started, boss Lam had overseen a promotion back to Super League at the first time of asking, as well as a cup triumph in the form of the 1895 Cup.
The club had three times before reached the top table, without ever managing to stay there for longer than 12 months. This time, it’s different. After 14 wins in 16, they sit 3rd on the ladder and have a Wembley trip to look forward to.
With high praise for those around him, Briscoe added: “I think the success and the foundations that we’ve set already this season have been incredible. With the club being in the Championship last year and being a newly-promoted team [this season], people were talking about relegation and now we’re in a Challenge Cup final while sitting third, or joint-second if you like, in the league.
“It’s a great achievement when you take a step back, but to go one more and actually win some silverware would be absolutely incredible. It’s probably more on that side of it for the fans as well, with the journey they’ve been on and the support they show to us week in, week out.
“They’ve been up and down from Super League for a number of years without being able to make it stick, so I feel privileged to be in the position with this squad to be the ones doing that.
“It would’ve been hard [to see this coming in my first year here], but knowing the quality of player that was signing, which was a big draw for me to come and sign here, I was always confident. I always say ‘the more you play there, the more you want to get back there’, and the drive and want to get back and play in big games has never gone away for me.”
Leigh ‘have winners’ in their team
Alongside Briscoe, plenty of other players that Leigh have recruited over the last two years have winners’ medals to their names from competitions regarded highly in the game.
Captain John Asiata is a former NRL Grand Final winner, while Zak Hardaker – the 2015 Man of Steel – is a three-time Grand Final winner. Josh Charnley holds three Challenge Cup winners’ medals already, and that’s just a flavour of the experience within the Leopards’ ranks now.
It’s for that reason, Briscoe remains confident ahead of Saturday. He adds: “Coming to this club, I wanted to bring that experience of those games like we spoke about before, and then push on and challenge in those big games as well.
“The experience is not just from me, we have a lot of winners in our team and a lot of players who have the experience of playing at Wembley as well as in Grand Finals. All that will go towards helping the guys that perhaps haven’t been there before, and hopefully that can lead to us putting in our best performance come Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a real tough game. It’s been two tough games against them already, they play very expansive with lots of offloads and their kicking game is great. We know that defensively we’ll have to be on top of our game, probably at the best level we’ve been all season. To do that, we need to turn up with the right attitude and make sure that we’re on it.”