Lee Briers:'I might have a new trick up my sleeve for the Cup final'

Lee Briers is promising something special as the Wolves fell the Giants in today's Challenge Cup final. He tells Dave Hadfield what's in store
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The Independent Online

Lee Briers bristles at the very mention of the phrase "party culture". The Warrington playmaker, upon whom so many of their hopes rest in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley today, has heard it so often that he is sick of it.

Briers, the theory goes, was the ringleader of 10 years' worth of Wolves teams that were more notable for big nights out than big games won. He insists that much of his reputation rests on a false perception about his lifestyle.

"I enjoy life, but I work as hard as anyone," he says, adding that, as the father of children of 11 and six, "I enjoy life in a different way. I have a family now and I realise I have to be a role model, but people still have this perception of me and I'm not going to change that now."

Team-mates, however, say that there has been a perceptible change in him over the last season or two.

"He's always had that stigma of being a big drinker and a bit of a party animal," says Garreth Carvell, who has experience of both winning and losing a Cup final with Hull.

"I was with him in the Welsh team that played in the 2000 World Cup and he probably lived up to his reputation then.

"He's a lot more grown-up now, a lot more mature." Part of that maturing process came in a way that could have been deeply unpalatable to Briers, when Tony Smith, just two games into his tenure as Warrington coach, left him out of the team after a sub-standard display.

"It was the best thing that could have happened to me," the player says now. "It made me realise that what I needed to show was some consistency." At the time, though, his temporary demotion fuelled rumours of a move down a division, to run the on-field show for ambitious Barrow.

"Realistically, that was a move that probably wasn't going to happen, although I was in talks with Barrow," he says now.

"What I really wanted to do was show the right sort of form and get my future resolved at Warrington."

He has achieved that consistency he was looking for and been rewarded with a new one-year contract, plus the Cup final appearance he has waited so long for today.

"If Briersy decides to have one of his days, then there's no answer to him," says Carvell.

Briers himself believes that one thing helping him to have more of those days is no longer shouldering the extra responsibility of the captaincy.

"When I decided to stand down, they ran the name of Adrian Morley past me and I knew straight away that was the right choice," he says. "I couldn't have been more pleased.

"He's a great leader. He's different from me; I'm more of a talker and he's more of a doer."

It will need Briers to do plenty today, though, if Warrington, in their first final for 19 years, are to overcome what has become a formidable Huddersfield side.

"They're not going to change their style at this stage," he adds. "They've got some very big blokes, they defend well and they thrive on really quick play-the-balls." Briers will have to adapt today to playing with a new half-back partner, the very occasional stand-off, Vinnie Anderson.

That will put more organisational pressure on him than ever, as the main ball distributor and the main kicker.

His cunning cross-kicks near the opposing try line are sure to be a feature of play, opening up opportunities for the likes of Matt King and Chris Hicks.

He hints, however, at something special that he has been keeping in reserve for the Wembley stage it has taken him so long to reach.

"The cross-kick has been a good move for us, so we'll naturally be using it again, but I might have a new trick or two up my sleeve."

That is spoken like a master of the unexpected on and off the field. Lee Briers can ensure today that he will be remembered for his playing more than his partying.

Ideal Challenge: Cup final statistics

*Huddersfield and Warrington contest the 107th Challenge Cup final, with both sides among the most successful in the competition.

*The Giants have won the Cup eight times, most recently in 1953, while the Wolves have triumphed on five occasions, 1974 their most recent victory.

*Last five finals

Wembley

2008 St Helens 28 Hull 16

2007 St Helens 30 Catalans 8

Twickenham

2006 St Helens 42 Hudd'field 12

Cardiff

2005 Hull 25 Leeds 24

2004 St Helens 32 Wigan 16

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