Challenge Cup winner Kyle Amor says he is fulfilling another career dream when he heads home to Whitehaven with St Helens for Saturday’s live sixth round clash on The Sportsman.
The popular prop forward has been sweating on his inclusion all-week having had to wait to break into the champions’ team this year, but the veteran is now hungry to return to the town where he played as an amateur and worked making crisp packets in a factory before hitting the big time.
Amor is guaranteed a huge reception when he comes off the bench for the Cup holders this weekend.
“I was delighted with the draw and my phone started pinging straight away with my mates back home looking forward to me coming home,” he told The Sportsman. “I’m really looking forward to it but we still have a job to do to get through to the next round.
“It's my hometown, me and my wife are from up there and when I played at amateur and then got the opportunity to play for my home town I was so excited. Ultimately that is where the heart is and I have fond memories and a lot of good people to thank for the career I’ve had.”
Amor is in his final year with the Betfred Super League champions and aims to drop into the Championship next year to play part-time after completing a PE and Sports Science degree this summer. “Nobody in the Amor household has a degree so that’s something I’m really proud of if I get it,” he tells me.
Scoring a Wembley try last year to help Saints lift the trophy stands out as Amor’s finest career moment, and one that has allowed the likeable Cumbrian to deal with subsequent setbacks of being left out of the side. Indeed the 34-year-old was an unused sub in Saints’ Grand Final win last year and has been used only sparingly in his final season at the club.
But returning home this weekend with the best team in the northern hemisphere represents the perfect opportunity to bring his sparkling career full circle. And when I sat down with Amor at the start of the season, he was already reminiscing.
“The sport has given me so, so much,” he told me.
“When I scored that try at Wembley a whole wave of emotion hit me. If my career ended that day I could have walked away happy. It is one of my greatest memories. For a lad late into the game who did night shifts in a Whitehaven factory, watching games in the club with a beer, it was never in my mind that I’d have my hands on so much silverware for a wonderful club. It fills me with immense pride and immense joy.“
Less than two months later Amor is back within a couple of miles of that crisp factory with the chance to thank so many people who have helped build his career.
“I spoke to (Saints coach) Kristian Woolf when the draw came out and told him what a passionate group of people there are in Cumbria who love not just their hometown of rugby league but rugby league in general,” he told The Sportsman this week.
“There are Saints, Wigan, Leeds shirts all over and all the NRL gear - the kids just love the game. You’ll get a passionate crowd up there, the facilities at Whitehaven aren’t the best and they’ll use that to their advantage. It’s a long drive up and there’s a boggy pitch in the top left corner. They can manipulate that to get good results and catch teams out.
“I remember as a Whitehaven fan watching Warrington and Catalans coming up to play in the Challenge Cup. They are huge days for the town and the away fans, and with it being a 2pm kick off on The Sportsman it’s a great opportunity for the fans to make a good weekend of it and spend some time in the Lakes too.”
St Helens head to Cumbria off the back of a defeat for the first time this season. And their shock loss against Toulouse in the south of France last week will give hope to a Whitehaven side sitting 10th in the Betfred Championship.
“Being underdogs always brought out the best in us when I was at Whitehaven,” Amor adds.
“We went after teams physically and that’s what we will expect this weekend. Those guys have nothing to lose and everything to gain and a lot of them will be excited by the prospect.”
Watch live and exclusive coverage of Whitehaven v St Helens in the Betfred Challenge Cup only on The Sportsman this Saturday from 1:45pm, with former Castleford and Scotland captain Andrew Henderson joining me for commentary.
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