Rugby League rivals on the pitch; Men United off it. That’s the story of Kevin Sinfield MBE and Andy Lynch ahead of the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday (23 August). Sinfield’s Leeds Rhinos take on Lynch's Castleford Tigers in the sport’s showcase final. And Prostate Cancer UK has a foot in both camps, as last month the two players signed for Men United.
Leeds have lost their last six finals in the competition, with Sinfield skipper for the last five - but you have to go back 28 years for Castleford’s last Wembley win. And to add even more spice, Lynch, who will be working with Prostate Cancer UK as part of his testimonial year, was part of the squad that lost last season’s final.
We caught up with them to hear how their passion for the sport and the rugby league community is driving them to give their all in the game and in the fight against prostate cancer.
Electric atmosphere on finals day
“I don’t think there is going to be a better final than an all Yorkshire affair between Leeds and Castleford," said prop forward Lynch, in his second spell at Castleford. "The atmosphere will be great."
Aside from their regional rivalry, the clubs remain locked together in Super League as the business end of the season approaches. Lynch said: “I think we are both sat level on points in the league and last time we played it was 24-24 and could have gone either way. It should be a really entertaining day.”
“The club have been through thick and thin,” he added. “It’s nice for the players but especially the fans and Jack Fulton, the owner, who has put a lot of money into the club over the past 10-15 years. A lot of credit goes to him and it will be a great honour to walk out behind him at Wembley tomorrow."
“I was there last year with Hull and we lost, so this year obviously I would like to win. We know if we play to our best we will get our hands on that trophy.”
On the opposite side will be Sinfield, who played a starring role alongside Paul Scholes when Prostate Cancer UK popped in for a hair cut at their local barbers in Oldham last month.
A Challenge Cup winner's medal remains the one reward to elude him in his career, and he is expecting a tough battle. “I’ve had a few goes and got a few silver medals,” he said. “Castleford are a very good side as well - very well coached. It will be a real toughy for us.
“There’s a lot of tradition with the Challenge Cup. It's been going now for over 100 years and I think everybody, certainly from my generation, grew up wanting to play in the final and wanting to play at Wembley."
Putting it in perspective
The England skipper insists he will leave it all on the pitch on Saturday in his quest to complete the set, but remains hugely proud of his achievements on and off the pitch. “If my career ends now, then I will feel very fortunate and privileged with the trophies I’ve won, the finals I’ve played in, the players I’ve played alongside and the club I play for,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to win. But it’s not something that eats away at me. There are things that are far more important in life. Certainly some of the stuff I have been doing for Prostate Cancer UK has really helped me.
“It would be wrong of me to complain that I may not have one medal when there are people with far more problems than I have got. As I’ve got older I’ve become a bit more philosophical and have a bit of a better grip on life.”
Signing for Men United
On his link with prostate cancer, Lynch, like Sinfield, was drawn to offer his support to the cause after speaking to Sky Sports rugby league reporter Bill Arthur, who has been affected by the disease.
“Bill spoke very highly about what the charity has been doing, so that’s good enough for me,” he said.
“Rugby league is a really close knit, family-orientated game and the interaction with the local community is massive, especially at Castleford. It’s like nowhere else.
“The fans interact with the players after the game and us players are willing to do stuff for people.
“The more I read up about prostate cance,r the more I learn, and it’s great to see the work that Prostate Cancer UK is doing.”
Sinfield has also been keen to get on that learning curve, and added: “Now rugby league has embraced prostate cancer and tried to raise awareness, I’ve learned so much about it.
“I've realised that cancer could affect either me, a member of my family or close friends. If we can help men survive and have a better quality of life then it’s really important we do that.
“The fact that rugby league has jumped on board as a sport, with it being such a male dominated sport on the field, it’s great. We can get in touch with some very masculine blokes that have been watching rugby league for years. I suppose they are the guys that Prostate Cancer UK are looking to target.
“It’s really important, as players, that we try to spread the word and try and help people. I think on the back of a small bit of work we have done as players, if we can save one life it would certainly be worth it.”
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