WHEN part-timers Featherstone Rovers tackle the might of Hull FC tonight, it will be hard for anyone from the West Yorkshire village not to think back to events from 35 years ago.
It was in 1983 that Allan Agar’s Featherstone produced one of the biggest shocks in Challenge Cup history, humbling Hull and their galaxy of stars at Wembley.
The clubs meet again in the competition – admittedly at the sixth round stage – with Rovers hoping to repeat the upset and reach the quarter-final stage.
Given they are a Championship side and Super League Hull have won at Wembley in each of the last two years, it is not lost on them the size of the task that lies ahead at Post Office Road.
But David Hobbs, who won the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the match in 1983, attests, it is remarkable what can be achieved on occasions.
“The gap between the sides is probably bigger than it ever was, but it’s all about performance on the night,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“If Hull aren’t fully prepared, Featherstone are a good enough side to give them some problems.
“They have some ex-Super League players in there and they all have to perform.
“It’s a big game for the Fev lads, just as it was for us back in ‘83.
“You have to have confidence in your own ability. We had that plus the desire to win.
“And once the Cup runs starts, the whole village comes alive so you’re not just playing for the club or yourself but the whole community.”
In 1983, Hull were not just the Cup holders – as Lee Radford’s side are now – but they had also finished top of Division One.
With the likes of David Topliss, James Leuluai and Gary Kemble in their side, they were overwhelming favourites.
But two tries from second-row Hobbs, plus four goals from the late Steve Quinn, saw Featherstone home.
Hobbs, 59, recalled: “We were fighting relegation at the same time. Hull actually did us a favour in the league. They beat Barrow on the last game of the season so we stayed up – then we went to Wembley and repaid the favour!”
He won the first of a dozen Great Britain caps the season after claiming the Lance Todd Trophy. Hobbs added: “I have to thank all the lads.
“If they hadn’t performed, we wouldn’t have won and someone else would have got the Lance Todd. But I was able to fulfil that dream and go on to other things, too.”
Featherstone winger Luke Briscoe, meanwhile, is looking to equal one of the sport’s oldest records tonight.
The 24-year-old has scored in 16 straight matches, beating Martin Offiah’s modern-era record when crossing in the 36-10 defeat in Toulouse.
If he continues that streak this evening he will go level with Eric Harris, the Australian winger who set the all-time record of scoring in 17 consecutive games for Leeds between December 1935 and February 1936.
Radford knows Briscoe well; he played for Hull at youth level but switched to Leeds aged 17.
He never truly made the grade with Rhinos and moved at the start of last season. But with 27 tries in those 16 games, he is attracting plenty of interest.
“He’s playing like he’s smothered in dog dirt at the minute – nobody wants to tackle him,” said Radford, in his own inimitable style.
“He’s a very strong boy when it comes to winning the ground or getting a penalty. We are very aware of his threat. I think he has a good job but he is Super League standard definitely.”
Radford revealed he will play centres Jake Connor and Carlos Tuimavave as his halves with Marc Sneyd, Albert Kelly and Jordan Abdull all injured.
He also added there’s “a chance” that Sneyd’s knee injury could even be season-ending but he will see a specialist shortly.
On Featherstone, Radford said: “It’s a difficult place to go and I’ve had some really tough days.
“We lost three front rowers in one pre-season friendly there once. We just have to make sure we win and it doesn’t matter how now I’ve lost three half-backs.”