Rugby: Plate provides welcome return

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The Independent Online
The Silk Cut Plate, the consolation prize competition which forms Wembley's curtain raiser for the first time tomorrow, has more sceptics than believers - but not in south Leeds or east Hull, writes Dave Hadfield.

David Plange, Hunslet's player-coach, said: "You won't find many people from this part of the world knocking it."

Plange has seen Wembley from all angles, as a member of the Hull Schools' under-11s side in 1976 and in the Castleford team that beat Hull KR 10 years later, but he is not blase about the chance to return.

"Apart from being great for players and supporters, it also provides revenue," he says.

In Hunslet's case, it also strikes a historical chord. It was 32 years ago that they were last at Wembley - for one of the great finals, against Wigan - and their reappearance marks the rediscovery of their identity.

Now installed in a new stadium not far from Parkside, their traditional home, the Plate gives them the chance to remind the city they still exist.

Hull KR's Wembley pedigree is more recent; indeed, one of their players, Des Harrison, played in the 1986 final, but can remember little of it, thanks to an early blow on the head.

Their coach, Steve Crooks, played for them there in 1981, and no one is more aware of how much times have changed for Rovers. Since their great days in the early to mid-80s, staying alive has been more of a priority than going to Wembley and they are only playing now by permission of the administrators running the club.

Plange intends to do lead from the front. He only had a plaster cast removed from his ankle on Wednesday. For him, and the others involved, the match that kicks off at 12.15, when spectators are traditionally settling into over-priced London pubs, is far from a meaningless side-show.

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