JOSH Charnley paid tribute to his former Wigan Warriors teammate Jack Hughes after returning from injury to help Warrington Wolves win the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2012.

Both made their comebacks in the final after recovering from surgery this summer.

Hughes needed emergency surgery in France at the beginning of August to repair a ruptured testicle, an injury sustained in a loss against Catalans Dragons.

Yet just three weeks later the 27-year-old back-rower, who was wearing a cricketer’s box to see him through the match without any issues, stepped up to play stand-off in the absence of injured marquee playmaker Blake Austin.

“Jack’s an outstanding player, the most underrated player in the competition I reckon,” said Charnley, who added a Challenge Cup winners’ medal to the two he won with Wigan.

“He can play anywhere and is a true leader.

“I came through the Wigan system with Jack and I’ve played many games with him.

“To see him grow into the player he is, I can see how he’s going to be an incredible leader for us for years to come.”

Hughes’ defensive quality in keeping the dangerous Jonny Lomax quiet for the majority of the game played a major part in Wolves lifting the trophy.

Warrington Guardian:

Jack Hughes in action at Wembley. Picture by Mike Boden

It was some feat for Charnley too, to be playing in the final after having had knee surgery in the week leading up to Warrington’s semi-final win against Hull in Bolton.

“I came back three weeks early.

“I did everything I could to get back in for this game and the support I’ve had has been brilliant,” said the 28-year-old winger.

“The medical staff worked their socks off to get me back for this game so I can’t credit them enough.”

Being able to play a part in the glorious ninth Wire Challenge Cup Final success helps him to lay to rest the ghosts of the disappointing defeat to Catalans Dragons in last year’s decider.

“I’m buzzing but I was here last year and ended up losing,” he said.

“We worked hard all week, we spoke about the feeling we had last year.

“We have corrected that and come away with silverware that we’ve worked really hard for.

“Both teams were out on their feet in the second half.

“It was an end-to-end game but it was one of those where we stuck to our plan and we came away as winners.

“I only really believed the game was won when the final whistle went.

“Saints are a good team and can score points quickly.

“The job wasn’t done until the whistle went.

“All week we were underdogs, we were missing our marquee man, but I think a lot of people had written us off before the teamsheet was announced.

“We worked and played on that. It was one of those that we believed but I think it was only us who believed in ourselves that we’d get the job done.

“I think even our fans were a little bit ‘oh no’ when Austin wasn’t announced as playing, but we dug deep and have come away with a medal around our necks and created history for the lads.”

He agreed with members of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association in that hooker and deciding try-scorer Daryl Clark was the man of the match and therefore collected the Lance Todd Trophy.

“Daz thoroughly deserved it,” he said.

“He grafted, he was on his haunches an awful lot in the last 25 minutes, and he did well to get through it and get that try for us.”

Warrington Guardian:

Daryl Clark won the Lance Todd Trophy. Picture by Mike Boden

Going into the game, Charnley told the Warrington Guardian all about his love of fishing and how it helped him to relax in a sport that is a million miles away from the carnage of a rugby league sport.

He shared some of his pictures of his fishing successes in our Wembley preview feature in last week’s paper.

And when he is fishing, he said there is no better a feeling than catching a big carp.

So does winning the cup feel better?

Charnley, who returned to rugby league with the Wire last year after a short time in rugby union with Sale Sharks, grinned and said: “It feels miles better than catching a big carp.

“It’s good to have a bit of silverware again. I had been away from the game, come back last year and we fell short in last year’s final, but we’ve corrected that and need to kick on now.”