Twelve months on from wondering if he had played his last match, Gareth Ellis will lead his team out at Wembley on Saturday, hoping to end his long wait for a Challenge Cup winners’ medal.
At 35, the former Wests Tigers and Great Britain forward has been back to his best, leading from the front in Hull’s quest for the treble, which represents a remarkable turnaround from this time last year.
“If I’d have been speaking to you then, it would have been on two crutches and with a pot on my foot,” Ellis said.
“Things would have been a lot more dark and gloomy than they are today. But they’re the things that drive you on.
“After sulking for a few days after tearing my Achilles, I was as determined as ever not only to come back but to play some good rugby.
“I feel like I’m playing the rugby that I was hoping to play ever since I joined the club. It’s been a bit stop-start with injury.
“My own form and injuries have probably mirrored that of the team. We’ve shown a lot of promise and not quite delivered, with the odd spike in performance here and there.
“It’s nice for myself to be playing some nice, consistent rugby and also for the team on the back of it.”
Ellis quit Super League after helping Leeds to their 2008 Grand-Final win over St Helens to try his luck in the NRL with Wests Tigers.
He was an unqualified success in Sydney, where he was named the Tigers’ player of the year in three of his four seasons, before returning to England for family reasons.
Hull emerged successful in the clamour for his prized signature and, attracted by the prospect of awakening one of the game’s sleeping giants, Ellis experienced several false dawns, notably the Black and Whites’ 2013 Cup final defeat by Wigan, but he is excited at the prospect of ending the club’s trophy drought and finally getting his hands on a Cup winners’ medal.
“It’s certainly one that eluded me,” said Ellis, who was in the Leeds team that lost to Hull in the 2005 final in Cardiff.
“Having won two Grand Finals at Leeds, moving away to the NRL in theory cost me a few winners’ rings and Challenge Cup medals but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”