21st August 2018, 15:30 | ChallengeCup
Stefan Ratchford moved to Warrington Wolves over six years ago, in his first year playing for The Wire he won the historic Challenge Cup.
Ratchford made the short move from Salford City Reds to Wolves in 2012, after making his first team debut in 2007 during a Challenge Cup match against Gateshead Thunder.
Ratchford left Salford to push for trophies and play in bigger games, on Saturday he will return to Wembley in search of his second Challenge Cup winners medal.
“It was quite surreal when I was leaving Salford I said I wanted to be involved in the big games.
“I’d not played in many big games, so after being here a year to walk out at Wembley it was a surreal experience.
“To be walking out at Wembley in a Challenge Cup Final was surreal but to come back with a winners medal is something you can’t explain,” said Ratchford.
As a fan it’s a great experience to walk down Wembley way ready to your beloved side grace the hallowed turf, for players it’s similar, except they have the opportunity to play and feel the support on the pitch.
“The whole week there’s a buzz around the place, being waved off by the fans and seeing Wembley Stadium empty before the game – to come away with a winners medal in my first season being here.
“It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Wolves beat Leeds Rhinos in the semi-final at the University of Bolton Stadium, the players have had to wait two weeks for the final, in between they had a Super League Super 8s game to take care of, and you would forgive them if they were distracted.
“Everyone wants the opportunity to walk out at Wembley and play in a Challenge Cup Final.
“We’re fighting for a top four spot this year, we’re not just fighting for a Challenge Cup – we want to be successful on all fronts.
“We’ve tried to put that to the back of our minds and it is quite difficult and there’s going to be that bit in the back of your mind ‘Wembley next week’.”
Ratchford’s first Challenge Cup final was in 2012, in 2016 he returned in the hope of winning it for a second time, however, his side fell short, two points short against Hull FC.
“To come away with a win one year and come up short the next, the different emotions are worlds apart.
“You want to experience Wembley over and over again because the week of it and walking out, it’s just something you can’t explain.
“It’s a buzz you want over and over again, but coming up short and coming away with a loss is definitely something you don’t want to experience.
“The boys who played in 2016 and came up short don’t want to experience that again and will do everything they can to put that right.Catalans Dragons will be the team looking to stand in the way of Wolves as they try to get their hands on the Challenge Cup trophy.
Dragons have risen from the depths of the Super League to make it into the top eight in the Super League and beat league leaders St Helens in the Challenge Cup semi-final.
“If you look at the Catalans squad, you’d probably say the first twelve or fourteen weeks it was bit of a false position for them.
“They are a quality side and a quality squad – what we’ve seen over the last ten to twelve weeks is the real Catalans.”