There is the hint of a Challenge Cup upset in the air at Batley, as the Championship part-timers prepare to take advantage of the Catalan Dragons' disarray.
Super League's bottom club confirmed this week that their coach Kevin Walters, will not be with them, next season – hardly the ideal preparation for a knockout quarter-final.
"We're not in awe of the Catalan Dragons, but we are very wary of them," said Karl Harrison, the Batley coach. "They probably see this as their only chance of doing something this year."
Batley, whose passage this far has been smoothed by the expulsion of Halifax for fielding an ineligible player, are trying to become the first non-Super League club to reach the semi-finals since Hull KR in 2006. Batley themselves have not played in a quarter-final since 1938 and have not won one since 1911.
"No one is getting carried away by thoughts of Wembley, but it's 99 years since Batley were last in a Challenge Cup semi-final and it's long overdue," said Harrison, who was lured back into coaching after being sacked by Super League Salford and admits that he would like another crack at that level. Batley are already overachieving this season for a club with their limited resources, with big victories over Whitehaven and Widnes.
For the Catalans, the previously ever-present Gregory Mounis misses the tie with a one-match suspension, but Brent Sherwin is free to play after avoiding becoming cup-tied with his previous club, Castleford.
A more typical Cup quarter-final is at Headingley today, where it is close to impossible to pick a favourite between Leeds and Wigan. The Rhinos will have a huge boost if Jamie Peacock – one of only two of their players with a Wembley victory to his credit – is fit ahead of schedule, just a fortnight after being ruled out for four to six weeks with a knee injury. Ali Lauitiiti is also due to return after a shoulder problem.
Wigan are sufficiently concerned about their stretched resources to recall Chris Tuson from his loan at Castleford, while Amos Roberts is another who could be back from injury sooner than expected, after scoring 12 tries in his 10 games before knee surgery.
St Helens' in-form winger Ade Gardner is denied the opportunity to play against his hometown club, Barrow, after suffering the recurrence of a rib injury.Reuse content