Big day out or a thankless task?

FOR the amateurs, the third round of the Challenge Cup is one of their biggest days of the year.

For the professionals, it is one they would rather not have to negotiate at all.

The logic of these games is easy to see: It gives the best unpaid players from the National Conference, plus all those butcher, baker and candlestick maker teams from further afield, the chance to measure themselves against the stars of the Co-operative Championship.

It also tips a few quid into the coffers of the community clubs, although the new ‘fixed fee’ system has now deprived them of the chance of a whopping pay day if they dropped lucky.

These matches have become a little contrived in recent years, with the Rugby Football League now virtually guaranteeing them by stacking the third round draw into two pools, which means they are not quite the special occasion they were when there was more good fortune involved.

Nevertheless, the basic equations remain the same.

For some, like Halifax and Myton tomorrow, one side will kick off as untouchdable, white hot favourites and, if they play to even half their maximum, will end up winning by some kind of cricket score.

On other days, the minnows of Championship One can find themselves in real trouble against the best amateurs in the country, which is exactly what happened when Siddal drubbed Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium on that memorable Saturday a couple of seasons ago.

It’s a dangerous assumption, but just about the only thing that should not be in question at the Shay tomorrow afternoon is the result.

Myton, new to the top flight of the Conference this year, will doubtless turn in a mighty, enthusiastic effort.

They might score a try, they might score two or three.

And they might hold Fax down for 50 or 60 minutes, finish with a respectable scoreline behind them and leave with a few tales to tell.

But win? That’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Mind you, they probably said that before Cawoods as well, so you have been warned.

Miracles excepted though, for Harrison, this game is probably as much about the chance to present comeback chances to long-term injury victims Makali Aizue and Ross Divorty, as well as possibly handing more experience to some of his younger players.

If Divorty and Aizue make it through unscathed, the coach will probably consider it an afternoon gainfully spent.

It is also a timely opportunity to rest a few legs ahead of what is shaping up as an infinitely more pivotal contest against another of the Championship’s unbeaten teams, Sheffield, at Bramall Lane on Thursday night.

The last thing Fax can afford is an injury to players who could prove crucial against the Eagles.

Harrison has already confirmed that four key stars - Paul Handforth, Sean Penkywicz, Adam Robinson and Ryan Fieldhouse - will be rested to leave them fresh for the trip to South Yorkshire. And there could yet be more, with the return of Aizue and Divorty freeing the coach to make more changes if he chooses.