Crabtree could be key to Huddersfield's chances

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The Independent Online

If Huddersfield are to win the Challenge Cup today for the first time in 56 years, they must overcome an opposition carrying a full fist of Wembley clichés.

There is the player rushed back from injury, the player whose wife is expecting a baby that day (both Mickey Higham); the untried young kid (Tyrone McCarthy); the old pro played out of position (Vinnie Anderson); and the reformed bad lad (Lee Briers).

The Warrington coach, Tony Smith, included all those elements when he named his 17 at the stadium yesterday.

Higham has been out since rupturing his biceps in May, but came through a test on Monday and later passed a test of his own when he asked several team-mates to run at him.

"I'm confident it will be OK, but you're always happier when you've made that first tackle," said the former St Helens and Wigan hooker, whose wife, Kate, will be at Wembley despite it being the predicted date for the birth of their second child.

McCarthy, a 21-year-old forward, will become one of Wembley's least experienced combatants, with just two first-team appearances behind him.

"He's a really keen young kid who will give it a go," said Smith of the bold step of preferring him to the battle-hardened Paul Rauhihi.

Anderson is not completely unused to the stand-off role. "He's played Test matches there, so he's not a big risk," Smith said of the Kiwi.

It still adds up to a lot of question marks over the Warrington side. The only late decision for Huddersfield's Nathan Brown was who should come in for the injured Danny Kirmond and he has opted for Martin Aspinwall, who scored a try for the Giants from the wing in their last final appearance in 2006.

"He's only been a back-rower for five weeks," said Brown of his conversion of the former Wigan three-quarter. "But he's getting better with every match and he gives us that cover in the backs as well."

Apart from that bit of fine tuning, Huddersfield have an enviably settled side and a defensive record – the best in Super League – of which they are justifiably proud.

For a final in which the two benches could be a decisive factor, they also have the best impact forward in the game in Eorl Crabtree.

Brown has used the nephew of the wrestling legend, Big Daddy, differently – in short, sharp spells of damaging work. Remarkably, he has yet to score a try this season, but he is a young player with the keen sense of showmanship and timing to put that right this afternoon.

For the first time in decades, there is no member of the so-called Big Four in the final, which means that there is no clear-cut favourite.

The relative tranquility of Huddersfield's preparations could give them the edge, but Warrington represent the potential romance of the Cup and the classic individual Wembley stories waiting to be written.

They also have, in Briers, a player whose maverick style makes him a potential match-winner, although Higham joked yesterday that he has two possible names in mind if his child is a boy – Lance and Todd, as in the Lance Todd Trophy for the man of the match.

Challenge Cup final: Wembley teams


Brett Hodgson (c): FB

Leroy Cudjoe: RW

Paul Whatuira: RC

Jamahl Lolesi: LC

David Hodgson: LW

Kevin Brown: SO

Luke Robinson: SH

Darrell Griffin: P

Scott Moore: H

Keith Mason: P

Stephen Wild: SR

Liam Fulton: SR

David Faiumu: LF

Replacements: Eorl Crabtree, Paul Jackson, Shaun Lunt, Martin Aspinwall.


Richie Mathers: FB

Chris Riley: RW

Matt King: RC

Chris Bridge: LC

Chris Hicks: LW

Vinnie Anderson: SO

Lee Briers: SH

Adrian Morley (c): P

Michael Monaghan: H

Garreth Carvell: P

Ben Westwood: SR

Louie Anderson: SR

Ben Harrison: LF

Replacements: Mike Cooper, Paul Johnson, Mickey Higham, Tyrone McCarthy.

Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens)


Venue: Wembley

Kick-off: 2.30pm