With the Quarter-Finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in full swing, who better to catch up with than a Rugby League icon who’s lifted the trophy on four occasions: Adrian Morley.
Ladbrokes News caught up with the former Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and Salford Red Devils ace to discuss the thrilling Quarter-Finals we’ve seen…and the titanic Sunday fixture between Hull FC and Castleford Tigers.
Salford made it through to the last four of the competition thanks to a convincing 30-6 defeat of Wakefield Trinity at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday night. And the Greater Manchester club’s displays have impressed Morley throughout the campaign:
The 40-year-old told us: “I think they’re playing very well as a team. And most of all, their success has been about the unit. However, I’m a particular fan of Rob Lui, who has been fantastic this year.”
He added: “They’ve been working extremely hard, and you can tell from what they’ve done in Super League that they have all the attributes to beat some of the very top teams.”
And that – Morley thinks – stands them in very good stead for the Semi-Finals, with the former Salford man explaining:
“They’ve already beaten the likes of Castleford Tigers, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves this year – so they won’t be considering the Semis as a big achievement, even though it’s the first time they’ve reached this stage since 1998. All eyes will be on the Final, as far as the Red Devils are concerned.”
The club’s current Head Coach, Ian Watson, is also a man Morley knows well. The pair played together at amateur level for Eccles, before reuniting again at the end of Moz’s career, when Watson began coaching with the Red Devils:
“I’ve been very impressed with the job Ian’s done. I always knew he’d go into coaching and be a big success”, the legendary Prop explained.
“Even as a player, he mentored a lot of the younger guys coming through, and helped out a lot in training. He’s got a brilliant rugby league brain, and having played alongside Ian, I’ve no doubts over just what a big competitor he is! [*Laughs*]”
So, Salford – along with Leeds Rhinos [covered in part two of our interview with Morley] – are through to the Semi-Finals.
But who does he see joining them from Sunday’s game between Hull FC and Castleford?
While the four-time Challenge Cup winner likes Cas, explaining: “Castleford have been sensational for large parts of this season, and they totally deserve to be top of Super League as they are”, it’s the Airlie Birds he fancies to edge the meeting at KCOM Stadium.
Morley told us: “You can’t overestimate the incentive and belief you get from winning a trophy and how much it spurs you on the following year”
“When I’ve won this competition with both Leeds Rhinos and Warrington, we’ve also made it to the Final in the season after. All the boys at Hull who lifted that trophy at Wembley will remember what a special experience it was, and that’s a very powerful tool to have.”
The former Sydney Roosters man also thinks the location of the tie could be key.
“The home advantage – and the fact we’re likely to see a big crowd at KCOM Stadium will also help Hull. So I’m going to back the hosts to cause an upset and win!”
However, while both Hull and Cas are familiar names in the latter stages of this competition – one new side who reached the Fifth Round in 2017 have impressed and excited Moz. That’s the competition’s first transatlantic competitors – Toronto Wolfpack.
Morley explained: “I see the addition of Toronto Wolfpack as 100% positive. If we can get our sport and this great competition to reach a bigger audience elsewhere in the world, that can only be a good thing.”
“Even though they’re still a fledgling club, you can already say that Toronto have been a massive success already. Hopefully they’ll keep going on to bigger and better things. I’m a great believer in expansion, and if we can crack the North American market, that will be a fantastic success for the sport of Rugby League.”
If you fancy Adrian’s tip for the Hull v Castleford game, you can back the Airlie Birds at 13/8 in the match betting.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing