THERE was a time in the not-too-distant past that a trip to Wembley Stadium seemed close to a foregone conclusion for Warrington Wolves.

Indeed, it could arguably have been rebranded as “Halliwell Jones Stadium South” for the decade between 2009 and 2019 when they visited six times for the Challenge Cup Final, bringing the famous old trophy home on four occasions.

Since the new national stadium hosted rugby league for the first time in 2007, no team has visited more than Warrington and to that end, you can detect a certain “been there, done that” feeling among certain sections of the fanbase, both in terms of a trip to Wembley and the Challenge Cup itself.

However, even for those who are ambivalent – and one suspects they are in the minority – five years is a long time between drinks.

Memories of that glorious, against-the-odds victory over St Helens on a warm August day in 2019 continue to fade, with the intervening years punctuated by disappointment and underachievement.

On Sunday, however, the class of 2024 have the chance to affirm what plenty of observers are starting to believe about them – that they are at least back in the silverware conversation.

That is where everyone hoped Sam Burgess would take them, but it is fair to say there were many who were sceptical about his ability to do so at the first possible opportunity.

The kind of qualities he has instilled in this group – a willingness to work hard for one another and do the basics well first and foremost – are the backbone of any successful side and reaching the point of contending for first of the three available trophies would be the highest point of an era that is still, in Burgess’ eyes at least, building towards a crescendo.

Wembley may be in sight but getting there is far from a foregone conclusion.

Beating Catalans Dragons in Perpignan – something nobody else including Wire has managed to do this year – in the quarter finals and doing so by a handsome, 28-point margin demonstrates the kind of threat Huddersfield Giants possess despite their rocky run of late.

On their day, they are a threat to any side – even though they collapsed in the second half against Wigan Warriors on Saturday, they arguably had the better of the first and were unfortunate to trail at half time.

Warrington will start as favourites, but they did so in their last two Challenge Cup semi-finals and both ended in defeat against an Ian Watson-led Salford Red Devils in 2020 and Castleford Tigers the following year.

However, this is clearly a group of players that have locked the ghosts of previous years firmly away and if they deliver the kind of focused, professional performance that has been a feature of most of their matches under Burgess, they will be tough to stop.

The dream has always been there and the belief is starting to follow. Now, it is time to achieve.