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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May 2005, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Plenty at stake for former giants
By Julian Shea

The BBC Sport website has been following the fortunes of one club in the Powergen Challenge Cup since the competition began at the start of January.

But now that West London, South London, Castleford Lock Lane and Castleford Tigers have all fallen by the wayside, the focus is on Halifax.

The former Super League side now face Leigh in the last 16.


Alex Murphy is hoisted aloft by his St Helens team-mates after the 1966 Challenge Cup win
Alex Murphy is hoisted aloft by his St Helens team-mates after the 1966 Challenge Cup win
With just 16 teams left in this year's Powergen Challenge Cup, the players of Leigh and Halifax could be forgiven for wondering what it might be like to play in the biggest game of their careers.

If they want to know just what it takes to win a Cup final let alone play in one, there is plenty of inspiration close to home.

Leigh's director of football Alex Murphy has won just about everything there is to win in rugby league.

He holds numerous records but has a unique place in the history of the Challenge Cup.

He is the only man to captain three different sides to victory in the competition - St Helens in 1966, Leigh in 1971 and Warrington in 1974.

Leigh's shock 24-7 win over Leeds in '71 gives him the most pleasure but Murphy, now 66, says all three successes are very precious.

"For any player, the Challenge Cup is the biggest incentive there is," he told the BBC Sport website.

"Even though there is Super League and the Grand Final, it is still the number one competition for players.

Anyone who has ever heard of the Challenge Cup cannot wait to play in it
Alex Murphy

"Anyone who has ever heard of the Challenge Cup cannot wait to play in it."

Opposing Murphy on Saturday will be another man who knows what it takes to win the Cup.

Former back-row forward Paul Dixon was a member of the last Halifax side to lift the trophy in 1987, ironically against a St Helens side coached by Murphy.

"As a child I used to go to the Cup final with my grandfather," said Dixon, who is now football manager at The Shay.

"In 1983, I was there as a fan and told my wife 'the next time I'm here, it'll be as a player'. It was.

"Saints were hot favourites but we took our chances and won a very tough game by just one drop goal.

"It was a huge day for the town of Halifax. Everyone went to Wembley. It was a case of 'last one out of town, lock up.'"

Times have changed for both sides since those glory days.

Halifax are currently in National League One, having lost their Super League status at the end of 2003, while newly-promoted Leigh are struggling in the top flight.

"We're finding our feet in Super League but it must have been like jumping from heaven into hell when we first went up," said Murphy.

"We've got a lot more confidence now, and it might be a breath of fresh air for us to play a non-Super League side."

Murphy is not expecting an easy ride, though, insisting: "No matter how big the teams are, for 80 minutes out on the pitch everyone has a chance.

We've got about five ex-Leigh players in our side which will add some spice
Paul Dixon
Halifax football manager

"That's what's so great about the Challenge Cup and why it's so important. We must never ever lose it."

Dixon is also happy with the draw and has warned Leigh to be ready for a bruising encounter.

"We're one of the better teams in the National League and they're struggling, so we've got to fancy our chances," he said.

"We've got about five ex-Leigh players in our side which will add some spice.

"We're a workmanlike side and hopefully everyone will put their body on the line and it'll come together on the day."

Leigh entertain Halifax in a fifth-round tie at The Coliseum on Sunday (1500 BST).




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