Workington Town target return to former finals glories

By Matt NewsumBBC Sport

Workington Town have a long and proud history in rugby league.

During the 1950s the club were league champions and frequent Wembley visitors in the Challenge Cup, as well as fielding a number of Great Britain internationals.

As recently as the mid-1990s the club were Second Division Grand Final winners and founding members of Super League, but since the turn of the millennium, Town have fallen into professional rugby league's bottom tier.

To make matters worse, local rivals Whitehaven have enjoyed a measure of success over the last decade, as losing Championship Grand Finalists and minor premiers in 2005 and runners up in the Northern Rail Cup final in 2007.

However the wait for redemption in this hotbed of the sport could soon be over. Joint coaches Gary Charlton and Martin Oglanby have led Town to Sunday's 2011 Championship One Grand Final, where Keighley provide the opposition at Warrington's Halliwell-Jones Stadium.

"The lads have worked really hard for this," Charlton told BBC Look North.

"The players have got us here, they need the pat on the back, they've done the hard work and we can't praise them enough.

"It'll be great to see thousands of Workington Town fans down at the Final cheering us on, it gives the lads a great buzz."

One of the stars of Town's run to the Grand Final has been Darren Holt, who at the age of 35 has been a major influence.

The former Barrow player showed his quality with the boot with 71 goals and five drop goals in 2011, enough to earn a nomination for Championship One player of the year.

"It's nice to get nominations on a personal scale, but I'm more happy for the team," Holt added.

"Jack Pedley got one for the Young Player of the Year, and obviously the coaches got one for the Coaches prize.

"Off the field I think the recognition is coming through, it's a reflection of just how well the club is going and what direction they're going in."

Jason Demetriou's Keighley were convincing winners in the first meeting of the two sides back in April, as six tries sealed a 38-18 defeat for the Cumbrians.

However two victories in as many months against the Cougars, including a 19-10 play-off success earlier this month means that form-book wise Workington go into Sunday's game in the ascendancy - not that Holt is taking anything for granted.

"Finals are one-off games," Holt insisted.

"If you look on paper we've played Keighley three times, but I think all the form goes out of the window.

"If you get to a fina both teams deserve to get there on merit, through their performances through the season.

"I don't see it as any more than a 50-50 game, and whoever turns up and puts in a performance will come away with the spoils."

The final is the culmination of two seasons work by the duo of Charlton and Oglanby, who took over from Dave Rotheramexternal-link in July 2009 and have since taken the club to the play-offs two seasons in a row.

In particular the promise of players such as this season's Championship One Young Player of the Year Pedley, and last year's recipient of the award Jarrad Stack, has shown throughout the season.

Unfortunately Pedley will miss the final with a broken ankle, although Charlton believes his side is looking beyond this season to continue success.

"The lads are really young, they want to challenge themselves week in week out," he said.

"I'm sure they can step up to the mark next year, because if we do go up we would be playing against teams that are physically hardened and play to a higher intensity week in week out, but it would only take them a few weeks to settle."

BBC Radio Cumbria has full commentary of Workington's Championship One Grand Final at Warrington on Sunday, with build up on AM and online from 13:00 BST.

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