Loan star, happy hooker

Moore the merrier in more central role but he is still going back to St Helens
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The Independent Online

For one horrible moment last Sunday, Scott Moore thought he had thrown away his Wembley dream. Closing down Bradford's Paul Deacon in the penultimate Super League match before Saturday's Carnegie Challenge Cup final, he caught him well after the ball had gone, with a hint of a raised forearm in the contact.

He was dispatched to the sin-bin; more damagingly, he was placed on report, giving the Rugby League the invitation to study the incident and possibly impose a suspension that would rule him out of the big occasion.

"There was a bit of a worry there, but not too much, because I didn't think I'd done too much wrong," he insists. "I had a tackle to make and a job to do to try to get us back into that match." All the same, Moore admits it was a relief the next day when the RFL's match review panel ruled he had no case to answer, removing the lingering fear that he could become one of that rare breed to have missed a Cup final through suspension.

It is an event for which he has been on the periphery often enough and in which he is now ready to play a central role. Although he is from Leigh, a few miles away but very separate in rugby terms, he followed St Helens to Wembley as a kid.

After signing on for Saints and making his debut as a 16-year-old scrum-half against Wigan, he was also in the official party, sitting uncomfortably in his suit, for a couple of finals. It has required a rather circuitous route to bring him to Wembley as a player.

Converted into a hooker, he found his route blocked at Saints by two of the best in the business, Keiron Cunningham and James Roby. The solution was to send him out on two season-long loan deals, first to Castleford and then this year to the Giants.

"If I hadn't gone to Cas and then to Huddersfield, I would just have been playing in the Academy, which isn't really much good to me," he says.

Going out on long-term loan is increasingly a fact of life for players at the bigger Super League clubs. It can feel like being forced to walk the plank; Moore has turned it into a springboard. Even finishing last with Castleford last season was, he says, a valuable learning experience, with more responsibility loaded on to his shoulders than would have been the case at a more successful club.

Huddersfield this year have been a different proposition entirely. In their first year under the coaching of Nathan Brown, they have played their way into third place in Super League, not to mention Saturday's Wembley final.

Moore's imaginative and creative play at hooker has been no small part of that and he believes that the influence of Brown, a high-class specialist hooker throughout his playing career in Australia, has been pivotal.

"Nathan is probably the best coach I could have had to work under at this stage of my career," he said. "He played 13 years as a hooker in the NRL and has been passing on to me a lot of what he learned."

The effect on Moore's game has been startling. From playing hooker a little like a frustrated half-back, he has settled into the role this season to such an extent that he made his England debut against France in June.

Saints have made it clear that they want him back next season, regardless of whether Cunningham carries out his annual threat to retire. Before then, however, he has a job to finish for his temporary employers. So far that job has included knocking Saints out of the semi-finals and ending their three-season domination of the Cup. He admits that was a strange feeling. "But I had a job to do and my loyalty this season is to Huddersfield."

Moore says Warrington will not be any easier to beat in the final, especially with another converted half-back, Michael Monaghan, at hooker. "He's played very well there and kick-started their season," he says. "Micky Higham's injury has been a blessing in disguise for them. It all goes to show how important the hooker is in the modern game. We handle the ball more than anyone."

Spoken like a true hooker, and one who will be part of a fascinating comparison at Wembley on Saturday.

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