IS the Challenge Cup losing some of its glamour and appeal?
The reason I ask this question follows the fact that only one of the weekend quarter-final ties pulled in a five-figure crowd, and two others couldn’t reach the 7,000 mark.
Years ago grounds would have been bursting at the seams at this stage of the competition, but not any more.
Not surprisingly, the eagerly-awaited Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors clash pulled in the biggest crowd (13,105).
But in a city as large as Hull, an attendance of 9,496 for the all-Yorkshire derby between the Airlie Birds and Leeds Rhinos was a little disappointing in a stadium which is capable of housing 25,586 fans.
Castleford, as a club, may have been happy attracting 6,336 to their tie against Huddersfield Giants.
But I can’t say the same for Saints, who had only 6,449 paying customers for their showdown with Hull KR – and included in that figure was around 1,600 spectators who had made the long journey from Humberside.
It meant that Saints had less than 5,000 genuine fans in the crowd, in a season when gates at their temporary Widnes home have definitely not come up to expectations.
I’m at a loss to understand why, since the journey from St Helens is only in the region of six miles, and the club has gone out of its way to provide easily accessible public transport to and from games.
But you can bet your bottom dollar that if Saints beat Wigan in the semi-final week on Saturday, then fans will come out of the woodwork in a bid to snap up Wembley tickets.
I JUST hope young Lee Gaskell – one of Saints’ finds of the season – doesn’t take any notice of the way his absence from Sunday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final line-up has been reported in one or two media outlets.
According to one source, he was “axed” to make way for Leon Pryce – and nothing could be further from the truth.
Coach Royce Simmons simply decided to give the half-back, who has featured in 17 senior games this season, a much-needed breather, and a chance to recharge his batteries ahead of the tough and demanding programme ahead.
SAINTS turned the clock back 50 years on Sunday, when a group of former players were presented with a special pennant to mark the club’s famous 1961 Challenge Cup victory over neighbours Wigan by chief executive Tony Colquitt.
Austin Rhodes, Wilf Smith, Albert (Ab) Terry, Brian McGinn and Alex Murphy all milked the applause of the crowd, and then later found time no doubt to reminisce about the good old days.