Wigan Warriors rising star aiming to fulfil childhood dream but knows ‘big challenge’ awaits in semi-finals

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Wigan Warriors rising star Brad O’Neill admits reaching Wembley would fulfil a childhood dream, but knows the 20-time Challenge Cup winners first face tough opposition in Hull KR for a spot under the famous arch.

O’Neill has won every trophy available in his early career to date, including starts in the 2022 Challenge Cup victory over Huddersfield Giants and the 2023 Super League Grand Final triumph against Catalans Dragons.

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And having watched Wigan as a youngster in the capital, the national stadium remains on the academy product’s bucket list with a place up for grabs this weekend with the semi-final clash at Doncaster's Eco-Power Stadium.

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Wigan Warriors face Hull KR this weekend for a spot in the Challenge Cup final at WembleyWigan Warriors face Hull KR this weekend for a spot in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley
Wigan Warriors face Hull KR this weekend for a spot in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley

O’Neill said: “The memory that sticks out the most is the Wigan and Leeds final with Joel Tomkins scoring that try, linking up with Sam. I was there for that game.

“I’ve also been there when they’ve been beaten, 2017 when Hull FC beat us. I think I was in my first year of scholarship, I was 14 or 15.

“I feel like I followed Wigan everywhere. I’m a massive fan of Wembley, it’s always been a dream of mine to play there. But we’ve got a big challenge ahead this weekend.”

Willie Peters’ side have already gotten the better of Wigan once this season with a 26-10 result at Craven Park, handing the Warriors only their second defeat of the season.

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The Robins also knocked Matt Peet’s outfit out of the prestigious competition at the same stage last year with a dramatic Golden Point encounter at Headingley as Brad Schneider kicked the winning drop-goal on a day that saw Joe Shorrocks sent off earlier in the contest.

Wigan’s newest number nine knows the magnitude of this weekend’s occasion, with the Warriors having last played at Wembley in 2017 with the 2022 final having been played at the home of Tottenham Hotspurs.

“It’s going to be very big,” O’Neill said.

“The prize at the end of it and getting to Wembley is massive. Obviously last year we didn’t get there and it was Hull KR who beat us as well.

“It’s a big occasion for us and we’re all very excited, and I’m sure there’s a few nerves as well. But we all play rugby league to be in these big games.”

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