24th January 2020, 09:00 | ChallengeCup

Coral Challenge Cup Finalist leading Ashton Bears in Round Two

Coral Challenge Cup Finalist leading Ashton Bears in Round Two

Phil Veivers walked onto the hallowed Wembley turf for a Coral Challenge Cup Final on three occasions with St Helens as a player, and this weekend he will take his Ashton Bears side to Siddal in the very same competition. 

Unfortunately, the Australian full-back didn’t have much luck at Wembley falling to three defeats however he is a firm believer in the ‘magic of the cup’ particularly in his new role as Ashton Bears Head Coach.

Veivers said: “There aren’t many players that get the opportunity to play in the Challenge Cup at all never mind play in a Challenge Cup Final – there have been some fabulous players who have never got to play in a Challenge Cup Final.

“For me to go down there on three occasions was pretty special. We came up short each time, but the experience is second to none to play in front of 80,000 people, you don’t get many opportunities to do that as Rugby League player.  

“There’s definitely still magic in the Challenge Cup. There’s magic in it for my boys who are playing in the competition for the first time and are now getting a second game in the historic competition. 

“Playing in the Challenge Cup is massive for the club and its massive for people like the Chairman Steve Jones who has been involved with the club a long time and the game two weeks ago was their first ever experience in the tournament.”

Ashton Bears – who finished 2nd in the Premier Division of the North West Men’s League last season – toppled Scotland’s Edinburgh Eagles in Round One who Veivers said were an ‘unknown quantity’ for his side.

“We went up on the Friday night and we went up there knowing nothing about them as such. But they also knew nothing about us either heading into the game. We went up there with an open mind. 

“On Saturday morning, the pitch had been closed which meant a late change of venue to a 4G field which may have changed the mindset of the players a little bit.

“The reality was the boys went out there and had a bit of slow start, but they grew into the game and really put it together and scored some fantastic tries.”

If Ashton are to progress to Round Three, they will need to cause an upset against four-time National Conference League Premier Division winners Siddal, who featured in the 3rdRound of last year’s competition. 

Veivers said: “It’s a pretty small pitch up at Siddal so I’m expecting a forward orientated game.

“You don’t get into the Premier Division of the National Conference League if you can’t play and plenty of good players have come through the ranks at Siddal. 

“I’m expecting a pretty tough game to be fair.

“But we’ll concentrate on our structures and what has got us to where we are at. A lot of that is about our defence, our line speed and our fitness which we’ve worked really hard on as the fitter you are the more chance you have of competing against these sorts of teams.” 

Veivers – who is now in his third season with the Bears – was Brian Noble’s Assistant Coach at Bradford Bulls during their early 2000s dominance and was also Head Coach at Salford Red Devils between 2011 and 2013, but admits coaching preparations haven’t been quite as easy at Ashton in the build-up to this weekend’s fixture.  

“The beauty of the amateur game is the circumstances you have to overcome. 

“I’ve got two assistant coaches. One is Danny Sculthorpe who has been in hospital all week and hasn’t been able to be at training and I’ve had to work away all week, so I’ve had to leave it to the other assistant. 

“There have been a lot of phone calls and conversations about how we want to play this weekend and the lads would have been going through the final team run as I was travelling back from Northamptonshire. 

“But we’ll give it a good go this weekend and see how we go.”