Rising to the Challenge

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Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup is certainly going to be different. For the first time since the 1986 final between Castleford and Hull, none of the ‘big four’ - Leeds, Bradford, Wigan and  St Helens - will be going Wembley. That privilege will be enjoyed instead by Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves along with coach loads of their thirsty fans. 

A portrait shot of man looking upwards and holding a rugby ball

Ellery Hanley - a rugby league legend. Photograph by John Ferguson ©

I, for one, am relieved. Not only is it great for the game to share the silverware but we also have a family wedding on Saturday and a congregation made up of Wigan and Saints fans who would no doubt spend the day with their eyes on the score instead of the bride (and I include the groom in that). So hats off to Huddersfield, and the best of luck to Warrington who will be flying the rugby league flag for the region – it’s going to be a rip-roarer!

Anyone involved in the game of rugby league knows what an exciting and entertaining spectacle it can be and is always on the look out for ways to spread the magic. That’s why I am thrilled to see the formidable Ellery Hanley represented in John Ferguson’s photography exhibition ‘Black Britannia’ at the International Slavery Museum. The exhibition features portraits of Black Britons who have contributed to British culture and whose achievements can provide a positive role mode for many Black British youngsters today - and what an inspiration Ellery has been in his field.

Ellery played phenomenal top flight rugby at Bradford, Leeds and most notably for Wigan during the peak of their success, as well as for Balmain and Western Suburbs in Australia. Over the course of his career he was capped 34 times for Great Britain and became Britain’s first Black coach in 1994. In 1999 he also coached the Saints to Super League victory.  His accolades include the Rugby League World Golden Boot Award, Man of Steel, the Lance Todd Trophy, an MBE for services to rugby league and induction into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

When it comes to rugby league Ellery Hanley certainly set the standard. If Warrington and Huddersfield need any inspiration for the weekend’s big clash, then this picture will surely provide it.