Jon Clarke, the Warrington Wolves hooker, will travel to Wembley this weekend hoping to consign a nightmare 12 months to history in glorious fashion. A year ago Clarke was dreaming of helping Warrington to their first Challenge Cup final win since 1974 when disaster struck just days before the match against Huddersfield. The long-serving forward was told he needed surgery to repair a stress fracture of the ankle and his season was over.
The Great Britain international could only watch as his team-mates ended the club's long drought without him, and his personal torment was only to get worse. He began a comeback attempt in pre-season training but suffered a setback that ruled him out for much of 2010 as well. Clarke only returned to action last month, in time to help the holders book a return trip to Wembley, where they face the Leeds Rhinos on Saturday, and he is anxious to make up for last year's pain. The 31-year-old said: "Hopefully I can go back on Saturday and erase some of the bad memories from a personal point of view.
"From a club point of view the memories are all good, positive and phenomenal but I am looking forward to putting a few demons to bed - if I get the nod for selection." Clarke came through the youth ranks with the Wigan Warriors but moved to Warrington in 2001 and has been a regular member of the Wolves side ever since. "This is my home-town club now," said Clarke, who also missed England's 2008 World Cup campaign with a broken arm.
"It's my ninth year and it's my testimonial next year. Lee Briers has done it, Paul Wood's doing it and I'm going to do it next year - 10 years at the club. "I think that is a bit of a rarity now where some people are swapping and changing clubs yearly." * Press Association