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Challenge Cup final: Lee Briers on final 'heartbreak' and Warrington Wolves glory

Challenge Cup final: Lee Briers on final 'heartbreak' and Warrington Wolves glory

Lee Briers won the Challenge Cup with Warrington Wolves in 2009, 2010 and 2012
bbc.comThe Challenge Cup holds bittersweet memories for Warrington's assistant coach Lee Briers - discarded by his hometown club for one final, but a Lance Todd Trophy winner as man of the match in another.Now the Wolves legend is determined to enjoy the latest chapter of his Wembley story as his adopted club prepare for their big test against Catalans Dragons on Saturday.It was in the cup that Briers first caught the public's attention. As a 19-year-old, he was drafted into the St Helens side for the suspended Bobbie Goulding, playing in every round as Saints reached the 1997 final.
But he was left heartbroken when he missed out on a winner's medal. He was dropped in favour of the returning Goulding for the final itself and took the decision to leave the club that he had supported as a kid.
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St Helens' loss was Warrington's gain."Of course it was heartbreak to leave," Briers told BBC Radio 5 live's rugby league podcast. "If you're going to turn professional, you always want to play for your hometown club. But things happen for a reason. I moved to Warrington, which is the best thing that could have happened to me."Success in primrose and blue took time to come, but when Warrington finally broke their long absence from Wembley in spectacular fashion, Briers was at the heart of it all.He played a key role in their success as they lifted the trophy three times in four years between 2009 and 2012.
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Ben Westwood and Lee Briers celebrate a third cup win in four years in 2012 - Westwood is still a key part of Warrington's playing squad"The Challenge Cup is everything and to win that first one in 2009, when the club had not won one for 35 years, it was everything we dreamed of," he said."We played a great game and were too good for Huddersfield on the day. I'd been to five semi-finals and been beaten, so to get the monkey off the back and get there and win it, I can't describe how good it was."But Briers is best remembered for his role in the 2010 victory over Leeds, when his inspirational performance earned him the Lance Todd Trophy - the prestigious man-of-the-match award. Famously, as his name echoed around the stadium, he pointed to the skies in memory of his brother Brian, who had died years earlier."Yeah, I was pointing to him because he was looking down on us," said Briers, still clearly moved by the memory.
"When you play at Wembley, you lose track of time. But I was in the moment then. I knew that when my name got called out we must have been close to winning."I pointed up to my brother and it kind of looks a bit selfish of me. It's a bit cringeworthy to be fair. It's mainly because I knew Warrington had won back-to-back Challenge Cups and that was so important for me."I'm a rugby league nerd, so I know what the Lance Todd Trophy means."At the time when you've won it, you probably don't realise how good it is. Now that I've retired and look back at who has won it and I'm in that select group, it just sends shivers down your spine. "It's an amazing award."
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Before Saturday's match, in his role on the coaching staff at Warrington, he will be reminding some of the young players at the club that the Challenge Cup remains a rugby league jewel. "Wembley's been around for donkey's years and it's our main knockout trophy," said the former Wales international. "Even those here who have been brought up in the Super League era, they still know of the importance of the cup to this club and the respect we've got to show that trophy."We will do, and we'll turn up at Wembley with that in mind."
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