HALIFAX coaching consultant Brian Noble has tagged Leigh as the clear favourites to take out Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup decider at Bloomfield Road (5.0).
The former Bradford, Wigan and Great Britain boss has helped transform Fax’s faltering season since arriving nine weeks ago, including an eye-catching league win against the previously unbeaten Centurions at Leigh Sports Village.
But Noble still believes that the Lancastrian side deserve to be considered front runners.
“We are definitely the underdogs,” insisted Noble.
“I have not changed the view I held when I came here: Leigh and Featherstone are the two best teams in the Championship.
“Leigh have good players, good athletes and some exciting young talent and they’ve got some great form.
“They’ve also got Robbie Paul back in the side now and he’s really important to them.
“We know we are going to have to be very good on the day to beat them.
“The requirements are the same as they are in any final: We need to kick well, look after the ball well and defend well.
“We also need to execute properly: We might get four or five chances with the ball and we need to take 80 or 90 per cent of those.
“This team has come a long way though and I think we saw that at Barrow last Saturday night.
“People are making those extra efforts that are outside their comfort zones and really playing for each other.
“If we do what we have practiced, we’ll be in there with a shout.”
Sunday will see Noble renew a high-profile coaching rivalry with Leigh’s Ian Millward that stretches back to the Australian’s time at St Helens and Noble’s reign at Odsal.
Noble also replaced Millward after his ill-fated stint at Wigan, steering the Warriors away from an almost-unthinkable relegation.
“We’ve had some great clashes over the years,” said Noble.
“Sometimes his style of play came out on top; sometimes mine did.
“Finals are why we play and coach and I’m excited by it, as are Matt (Calland) and the players.
“But the reality is that these occasions are always a whole lot more enjoyable if you win, so we need to focus on making sure that happens rather than being emotional about it.”
More final build up - pages 34-35