FOR Steve Price and opposite number Justin Holbrook, Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final will be a new high point of a rugby league journey they started together.

Growing up together in the same blue-collar suburb of western Sydney, they both dreamed of careers in the game.

It took them to the same Milperra Colts junior team and the same high school – East Hills High, where famous alumni include legendary swimmer Ian Thorpe and cricketing brothers Mark and Steve Waugh.

Not many would have thought those dreams would take them 12,000 miles from home and walking out on one of world sport’s greatest cathedrals as rivals.

Great friends though they are, niceties will cease at 3pm on Saturday as Price leads his Wire side into battle against Holbrook’s St Helens.

“It is surreal,” Price said.

“When we first met at Milperra, I think I was in the sandpit drawing up the game plans and Justin was carrying them out.

“I don’t think anybody would have thought at four or five years of age that we’d be coaching against each other in a Challenge Cup Final years down the track.

“There’s a huge amount of respect on both sides.

“Whoever wins I’m sure they’ll be standing the loser a beer after the game, so I hope it’s my shout.”

Warrington Guardian:

Steve Price – front row, far left – and Justin Holbrook – middle row, far right – during their junior days at Milperra Colts

Of course, Wembley will be a new experience for Holbrook with Saints reaching the final for the first time in 11 years.

However, for Price it is a place that holds plenty of memories – not all of them good.

He led The Wire into the great arena against Catalans Dragons this time last year and were on the wrong end of one of the greatest cup final upsets of recent times, with the French side winning 20-14.

Now, he is the one hoping to do the shocking with runaway Super League leaders St Helens the odds-on favourites at the bookmakers.

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“Looking back leading up to the game, there is nothing I’d change. Only our start to the game,” Price said of last year’s final.

“It was a wonderful experience but it was a game we weren’t happy with.

“In big games it’s important you get your start right, but we were a little slow out of the blocks and we went away from our process.

“We’ve got a really good opportunity to go down to Wembley and give it a red-hot crack at turning it around.

“I’ve seen some teams at major sporting events that lose it before they even get on the pitch.

“It’s important that you don’t play the game too early and you need your best 17 players giving their best performance. That’s what we’re going to need.”

Warrington Guardian:

Steve Price following last year's Challenge Cup Final defeat. Picture by Mike Boden

As well as the legions of Warrington fans travelling down the M6, Price can count on the support of wife Sheridyn and daughters Sienna, Savannah and Sharni on game day.

He is also looking forward to welcoming a first-time visitor in the shape of his younger brother – former champion cruiserweight boxer Danny Price.

“My brother will be getting here later on in the week,” he said.

“It will be his first time over here since I’ve been here and he’s excited for the boys to do well.

“He gets up to follow the games and gives his two bob’s worth now and then.”

Even though his upbringing was on the other side of the world, it is clear Price is a man who cares deeply about being an adopted Warringtonian.

Whether it is giving supporters a lift to games or dancing on stage at the St Roccos Starlight Walk, he has thrown himself into life in the town since arriving almost two years ago.

Warrington Guardian:

Steve Price on stage at this year's St Rocco's Starlight Walk

When he leads his players out at Wembley, he knows he is representing the 200,000 people who, like him, call this town home and is proud to do so.

“It’s a privilege to lead this club,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic town with supporters who love their rugby league.

“We’re very driven to create an unforgettable experience for them.”