Jack Hughes to use Wigan Warriors experience at Wembley
Whatever happens at Wembley, a Wiganer will get their hands on the Challenge Cup today.
And Jack Hughes hopes it is him. The Warrington co-captain was born and raised in the Billinge area of the town and was the dreaded 18th man when Warriors won at Wembley in 2013.
However, since then he has played in two finals – and lost them both.
Now, he is determined to end that run against St Helens this afternoon after revealing just how big a role his hometown club played in his development.
“I didn’t play with Wigan in 2013 – I was 18th man – and I lost with the Wolves in 2016 and 2018,” said Hughes, 27, who is prepared to return at Wembley after suffering a ruptured testicle in the Super League match against Catalans Dragons.
“Hopefully my third time there is time to lift that trophy.
“When I was 18th man, I was still pretty young and I knew my place in the squad. It was a strong squad then and a senior one.
“So I wasn’t too disheartened. Obviously, I’d have loved to have played but I’m also realistic and I knew my place. Unfortunately at that time everyone else was fit, so that’s where I ended up.
“But being around that squad and seeing how they prepared and went about rising to the occasion, I still remember all that very clearly.
“So even though I didn’t play, I still use all the things I saw that day.”
While Hughes is from one side of Wigan, the other will be represented in a St Helens shirt as Hindley’s Tommy Makinson will line up on their wing.
But he revealed his early rugby league heroes all played for Wigan.
The England international said: “When I was a kid I would’ve cheered for Wigan,” said the 27-year-old, who has never been to Wembley and describes his Challenge Cup record as, ‘zero.’
“I watched Wigan get beaten by St Helens at Murrayfield in 2002 with my dad and uncle. Kris Radlinski was one of my favourite players. He came back off a drip to play and was unreal.
“And Martin Offiah stood out like a sore thumb. If you can get your name mentioned like him at Wembley, you’re likely to have been on the winning side. He’s a legend.
“However Saints took me on at a young age and developed me into the player I am today. I travelled when they won everything and when you watch players in finals, that’s what you play the game for.
“Now my family follow me, but their ideal final would be Saints against Wigan!
“But it’s been 11 years without a cup win for Saints – it’s been too long. When you wear this shirt, you’re meant to win big games and trophies.
“My dream as a kid was just to play rugby. I wanted to be Kris Radlinski but when I moved, I quickly wanted to be Paul Wellens, Paul Sculthorpe and Sean Long lifting trophies.
“Watching Saints and Wigan when I was kid and seeing them winning trophies was a special upbringing. Hopefully I can create our own history now.”