PAT Richards may be returning to Wests Tigers at the end of the season but he puts the Challenge Cup up with the best experiences of his career
The towering Australian won an NRL Grand Final with Wests in 2005 before beginning his eight-year stay in Wigan but finally reached Wembley in 2011 after two losing semi finals.
And the stadium, along with the occasion, is up there with the best the world has to offer according to Richards.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go down to Wembley again,” he said.
“It’s one of the best stadiums in the world – it has an aura about it.
“I can see why all the big games are played there and you have to earn the right to get there so I’m honoured to get a chance to play in a final again.”
The 28-18 victory over Leeds Rhinos two years ago was Richards’ first experience of the final of the sport’s oldest competition and he is determined to end his last Challenge Cup campaign on the same note.
“You have memories for life when you do something pretty special and you make memories which are incredibly important,” he said.
“We love an opportunity to go down there again and do the same thing.”
Richards scored a try in Wests’ 30-16 success over North Queensland Cowboys in the 2005 NRL decider in front of 82,453 fans at the Telstra Stadium and wouldn’t like to compare the experience of that with his Wembley success to date – but as events they are neck and neck in his book.
“They are all special when you are in a final – you can’t really say one is better than the other,” said Richards.
“But I’d put the Challenge Cup up there for sure.”
Heading into Saturday’s showdown, which will see the Warriors try to preserve Hull’s unwanted record of never having won at Wembley, there is only one thing on Richards’ mind ahead of kick-off.
Having tasted cup success before, it is recreating the memory that sticks out most for him.
“Just winning really. You want to create that feeling again,” he said.
“It’s amazing to go down there and win something and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose.”
But losing is not even on Ricahrds’ mind. The laser-accurate goal kicker’s conviction suggests he is confident he and his team mates will be at their best on Saturday.
“Everyone in our group is confident and we have to go down and perform,” he said.
We’re not worried about Super League form – we know what we are capable of and we are quite confident.
“Everyone had us down to finish sixth at the start of the year and we are in a Challenge Cup Final so we can’t be doing too bad.”
Not that he thinks all Wigan have to do is turn up – he knows what Hull are
capable of, meaning he hasn’t even thought about how the lads might celebrate.
“We’re not there yet,” he warned. “We have a massive job to do so talk to me about it on Saturday night!”
But whatever happens, messages from his Australian-based family won’t be in person this year as they aren’t flying over but he knows they will be keeping a close eye on the Wembley pitch.
“I’m not sure what time it will be over there but they’ll be awake for it,” he said.