The Challenge Cup Final is just two weeks away with Leigh Leopards and Hull KR set to do battle having surpassed St Helens and Wigan Warriors in two bruising semi-finals last weekend.
One side will be lifting the trophy for the first time this century with Rovers last win dating back to 1980, whereas Leigh fans have to go even further back to 1971 for their last triumph.
Either way it’s set to be a brilliant spectacle with the final once again returning to Wembley, after it was hosted at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2022 when Wigan Warriors defeated Huddersfield Giants.
The final pits two attacking and fluid teams against one another with Leigh being the standout side of the season rising all the way to second despite just gaining promotion.
Meanwhile the Robins are under the charge of Willie Peters for the first year and it’s clear that the Australian is building something special at Rovers.
That’s included impressive recruitment for 2024 including former Warrington man Peta Hiku whilst ex-Wigan Warriors’ centre Oliver Gildart is also inbound.
Gildart has been playing for the NRL’s newest side The Dolphins however he’s mainly featured for their reserves side which had promoted questions earlier in the season as to whether Rovers would make an immediate play for him.
That was something that Peters denied, explaining that whilst he’d love for it to happen but Gildart had unfinished business in the NRL.
Despite that it has now been reported by Examiner Live that Gildart will make an immediate move to Super League, but for Rovers’ cup final opponents Leigh Leopards.
That prompted both confusion and outrage from Hull KR fans with particular reference as to whether the former Wigan man could play against Rovers in the Challenge Cup Final.
Luckily for Robins’ fans that will not be the case as per the Rugby Football League’s Operational Rules.
The relevant sections of the Operational Rules, which can be found here, provide clarity on the eligibility of players in the Challenge Cup.
It states as follows in section B3:9: “For the avoidance of doubt: (a) the provisions of Operational Rules C1:2:5 to C1:2:7 apply to Challenge Cup Final Matches and (b) a Player is only eligible to play in the Challenge Cup Semi Finals of Final if he is on the Register of the applicable Club by the close business on the Friday in the week prior to the Semi-Finals (in the 2023 Season being Friday 14th July) …”
The rules do continue on but this is the section relevant to Gildart’s situation.
With the move still only reported, and not confirmed, it’s assumed that Gildart has not been registered with the club since before the 14th July.
That’s the date that he would have had to register by as a Leigh Leopards player for him to be eligible for either the semi-final or final.
As seen by Brad Schneider, who was announced as a Hull KR player on the 6th July, he was able to play in the semi-final and will of course be eligible for the final providing he doesn’t pick up any ban.
So whilst it may be a confusing decision to sign on loan for your future clubs cup final rivals, it remains the case that Gildart won’t be able to face Rovers at all.
He does provide a key position of need for Leigh though in their race for the League Leaders Shield and the Grand Final with Ricky Leutele confirmed as out for four months or more per Adrian Lam on the Leopards Youtube Channel.