Brown backs Hock to bounce back

Wigan forward will return from drugs ban as a stronger player, insists brother-in-law
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Wembley-bound Kevin Brown has backed his brother-in-law, Gareth Hock, to emerge from his two years in the wilderness as a stronger person and player. Hock had his suspension for testing positive for cocaine in June confirmed yesterday when he failed to appeal before the deadline.

But Brown, a close friend of Hock from his Wigan days who will be playing for Huddersfield in Saturday's Challenge Cup final against Warrington at Wembley, says that does not necessarily signal the end of the Test second-rower's career.

"He's got his head around what's happened and he's determined to put his wrongs right," Brown said. "He's got to keep his head down and come back a better player.

"Obviously he's devastated at how stupid he's been. He's told me that watching the semi-final was the hardest thing he's done in his life," said Brown.

Warrington may spring a major surprise when they name their 19-man squad for Wembley today by including Micky Higham for what would be his first game in over three months.

The Great Britain hooker has been out of action with a ruptured biceps that was supposed to have ended his season, but his coach, Tony Smith, has refused to rule him out of the final.

It would be a risk to use Higham as back-up hooker from the bench, but with Scott Grix definitely ruled out and Jon Clarke very doubtful, it is one he might have to take.

Huddersfield will also name their 19 for the big occasion today, with the only real doubt over who will replace the injured Danny Kirmond on the bench. The former Featherstone player will be out for up to six months with medial ligament damage suffered in the last game before the final at St Helens last weekend.

The Huddersfield coach, Nathan Brown, could prolong the uncertainty by naming all three of the candidates to replace him – Andy Raleigh, Simon Finnigan and Martin Aspinwall.