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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 14:49 UK

Sculthorpe blow taints win - Long

By Phil Harlow
BBC Sport at Wembley

Paul Sculthorpe
Scunthorpe's St Helens career appears to be over after his latest injury

St Helens scrum-half Sean Long said the "heartbreaking" injury to Paul Sculthorpe tainted the joy of winning a third consecutive Challenge Cup final.

Sculthorpe lasted just two minutes before dislocating his shoulder at Wembley, the latest in a sad list of injuries for the two-time Man of Steel.

"It has taken a bit of the gloss off things," said Long.

"Losing our club captain is massive for us. We've played parts of the season without him so we have to push on."

It looks as though Sculthorpe's career at the club is over following his injury in the 28-16 victory over Hull FC.

The former Great Britain skipper had to be helped off the pitch after his first tackle of the game - on Hull FC full-back Todd Byrne - resulted in a nasty shoulder injury.

With just one game of the regular Super League season remaining before the high-pressure and high-intensity play-offs get under way, the chances of Saints coach Daniel Anderson taking a risk by selecting Sculthorpe again look slim.

He's been a fantastic servant for the game and for St Helens

St Helens prop James Graham
It may have been a slip of the tongue, but Long's post-match assessment of his team-mate's plight told you all you needed to know.

"It's just one thing after another," said Long, who has played alongside Sculthorpe for club and country for more than a decade.

"I feel so sorry for the guy. When you think of what a legendary player he was, to see him struggling like he is at the moment is heartbreaking."

That use of the past tense may be cruel for Sculthorpe, a player who has been one of the best ambassadors and finest talents in the British game's history, but it is probably accurate.

St Helens had already taken the decision to let the loose forward leave at the end of the season.

Now, with a badly dislocated shoulder to add to the 30-year-old's terrible injury record over the last three seasons, it is difficult to argue with their decision.

It is debateable whether another Super League club will be willing to take on a player whose standing in the game means he does not come cheap, with Wakefield having already pulled out of negotiations.

St Helens lifted a third straight Challenge Cup
St Helens won their third straight Challenge Cup with victory over Hull
In a column for the Daily Mail last week, Sculthorpe admitted he did not know where - or even if - he would be playing next season.

"I will make the decision that is best for me and my family at the end of the year, when I have had a chance to weigh up how my body feels and the offers from inside and outside the game," he said.

"I don't fancy rugby union and I'm too old and too settled to go to Australia, but I'm certainly not putting all my eggs in the rugby league basket. I have business interests and I know there will be life after I finish playing."

St Helens prop James Graham, one of the new breed of stars coming through at Knowsley Road, said Sculthorpe deserved to be remembered as one of the true greats of the modern era.

"The things Scully has achieved in the game are second to none," he said.

"Back-to-back Man of Steel winner says it all. He's been the best player in the competition for two years on the spin.

"It's a shame that injuries have taken their toll on him, but he's been a great player and a great person to have around the club. The presence Scully and Keiron Cunningham bring to our team is unbelievable.

"I don't know the full extent of the injury, but I'd hate to think that anyone would look back on Scully's career and just think about the number of injuries.

"He's been a fantastic servant for the game and for St Helens. He's been here 10 years and is such a great person to have on your side. He has an aura and is a fantastic professional.

"Whatever Scully decides to do, I know he'll put 100% into it. He's that type of guy who makes things work for him."

Sculthorpe's early departure against Hull FC at Wembley effectively meant Saints had to win the match with 16 players in the energy-sapping heat.

"As professionals you have to prepare yourself for things like that, both physically and mentally," said Graham.

"But if you're not motivated to dig a bit deeper in a Challenge Cup final then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself."

see also
Hull have bright future - Radford
01 Sep 08 |  Rugby League
Jon Wilkin column
30 Aug 08 |  St Helens
Cup win is for Anderson - Wellens
30 Aug 08 |  Rugby League
Yeaman devastated by final defeat
30 Aug 08 |  Rugby League
Super Saints clinch Cup final win
30 Aug 08 |  Rugby League
Challenge Cup final as it happened
30 Aug 08 |  Rugby League
Wilkin's player profiles
28 Aug 08 |  St Helens
Ask Jon Wilkin
26 Aug 08 |  St Helens
Wildcats end chase for Sculthorpe
22 Aug 08 |  Wakefield
St Helens to let Sculthorpe leave
14 Aug 08 |  St Helens
Sculthorpe quits as Lions skipper
25 Jul 07 |  Rugby League

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