Challenge Cup Final: Carvell moves props for final curtain

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The Independent Online

There are not many prop forwards in the modern era whose arrival at training can inspire an impromptu rendition of the Hokey Cokey.

When his Hull team-mates sing "In, out, in, out, shake it all about", they are making a subtle reference to a change of direction which, if he could reproduce it on the field, would make Garreth Carvell the most elusive front-rower the game has seen.

Carvell, who will pack down for Hull against St Helens at Wembley on Saturday, is the player who signed a new, three-year deal with the club last month, only to change his mind within minutes and leave himself in contractual limbo.

"I'd just been training with the lads and, when they stuck the contract in front of me, I got a bit overexcited," he explains. "As soon as I got into my car, I knew it was the wrong decision. Perhaps it's something to do with being a prop."

The following day, he returned to the club and told them he had made a mistake and wanted to leave. With Wembley likely to be his penultimate game, two Australian clubs plus Wigan and, intriguingly, Saturday's opponents Saints have shown interest.

"I've taken a bit of stick from the lads, but they understand why I've made the decision," he says. It does not sound like the ideal preparation for a big match, but Carvell and Hull have not exactly enjoyed a smooth season.

In the opening game he damaged knee ligaments in a tackle and missed the next 14 rounds. It was a sign of things to come for a club who have rarely been able to field a settled side because of the attritional rate of injuries.

"I've never known anything like it," says the 28-year-old Carvell, who cut his teeth with Leeds and Gateshead before becoming a Test-class prop on Humberside. "Maybe the human body isn't meant for rugby league."

The injury toll and a subsequent lack of consistent form cost Peter Sharp his coaching job in mid-season, for which Carvell says the players have to take the blame. "We have to take full responsibility for Peter losing his job. He's a fantastic coach and he had the respect of all the lads. We were all very disappointed, but then the board had to make the right decision and they got the right man."

That right man was Sharp's assistant, Richard Agar, who despite his obvious irritation at Carvell's about-face has continued to select him. Agar helped steer Hull to their Cup final success against Leeds in 2005 and the Grand Final the year after.

"Richard has served his apprenticeship and is more experienced than people think," says Carvell. "In fact, you look at our whole squad and it's full of people who have played in Cup finals, Grand Finals and NRL finals – there's no way we're going to be overawed."

Carvell was part of the team that beat Saints in the Cup semi-final three years ago. "I don't think they like playing us. We're a bit of a bogey team to them." That doesn't mean he lacks respect for the club he may yet join. "Saints are on fire at the moment but this is one of those games where anything can happen.

"I've been watching Challenge Cup finals since I was a little boy and that's the magic of it. It's even more special that it's back at Wembley. I went there on a trip last year and it was a bit of a strange, subdued atmosphere because there weren't that many Catalan supporters there. But the Hull fans travel really well and they'll pack the place."

Those fans know that Carvell is leaving. The lure of Australia is strong but as we know, he is capable of changing his mind. "I can't think of a better way of leaving Hull than this match or a better way of bowing out than with this group of players.

"All the lads and the coaching staff have been fantastically supportive. At the end of the day, all they want to know is that you're going to give 110 per cent – and that's what I'm going to do."