Challenge Cup: Milford and Lock Lane stalwarts ready for BBC TV cup date

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Challenge Cup: A backwards kick off & a 50-yard penalty
Coral Challenge Cup: Milford v Lock Lane
Venue: Milford Sports Club, Kirkstall Date: Saturday, 9 February Kick-off: 14:00 GMT Coverage: Live streaming on the BBC Sport website, app and connected TVs.

It is a blessing to amateur rugby league that people with the kind of passion Paul Couch and Bob Barker have for their clubs are involved in the sport.

Barker, now 62, has had more than 40 years at Milford ARLFC, and is now the chairman. He has seen it all.

Couch, 43, has tackled, passed and run his heart out for Castleford Lock Lane as a player, and now works hard to ensure the current squad do just the same as head coach.

Their enthusiasm is evident when speaking about their clubs.

These two fantastic rugby league characters will be on opposite sides when the BBC Sport cameras arrive at Milford Sports Club in Kirkstall on Saturday for the Challenge Cup second-round tie.

From junior to title-winning skipper for Milford

Having started his association with Milford in 1973, Barker has witnessed the club's glory days, and even played his own part in their success.

He was a 16-year-old when the junior side won the British Amateur Rugby League Association Cup and Yorkshire Cup honours at under-18 level.

That team would form the nucleus of the side which won the BARLA Cup in 1978, the Yorkshire Cup in 1980 and lost in the 1982 BARLA Cup final to Pilkington Recs.

The next generation was a team which included Barker, now installed as skipper.

"In 1986 we joined the National League, which is now known as the National Conference League," he told BBC Sport.

"Two years later, in the second season, we won it, and I was the captain of that team.

"I've been a player, committee man and now chairman, and I'm even doing a bit of training with the lads."

Milford's cup pedigree at Challenge Cup level is not perhaps as rich as other amateur clubs, but they have still had their fair share of tussles with professional sides.

There have been ties against Dewsbury (1979), Swinton (1989), York (2000), Gateshead (2011) and Barrow in 2014 - where the match was played at Headingley and the Cumbrians won 18-10.

"Some of the lads from Saturday played in that game and the Gateshead one," Barker continued. "They're trying to get to a third game against the pros."

There should be some continuity within the Barker family and Milford come Saturday too.

"My son James is the first team captain," Barker said proudly, but then chuckled. "But that's nothing to do with me."

Couch's Lock Lane legacy

Lock Lane, who play in the shadow of the town's professional club Castleford Tigers, have a special place in Couch's heart.

Having served the club as a player, indeed playing in the 2007 Challenge Cup tie against their bigger neighbours, he then went into coaching at Lock Lane.

He had a couple of years helping the Tigers' under-19 side alongside Tony Smith, and guided the youngsters to a Grand Final against Wigan, before returning last season to his old stamping ground for another stint as coach.

"I'm 43 with bad knees so the playing days have gone," he said on the cusp of another big cup date.

"We got to the fifth round [in 2016] beating Oxford on the way, but got beat by Halifax, but that was when I was at Cas.

Castleford Lock Lane concede a try against Halifax
Lock Lane were beaten 80-4 by Championship side Halifax in 2016

"I've never coached at the third round. We got knocked out at Distington in the second round last year.

"I said when I came back I had a three-year challenge to get us back up into the National Conference League Premier, and we did it in the first year.

"Now my goal is to get into the third round."

Couch juggles his role as Lock Lane boss with a full-time job, but one that keeps him in shape.

"I'm a drayman, I'm a mate," he said. "I'm in and out of the wagon all the time and it's a hefty job throwing those barrels about.

"With not playing any more I have to do something to keep in shape. Those barrels are 18/19 stone, so throwing those about is hard.

"It keeps me trim, and also we finish early so it helps me with getting to training."

Famous faces from both clubs

Gareth Ellis
Ex-Lock Lane back-rower Gareth Ellis was a Challenge Cup winner at Hull FC
Ryan Bailey
Ex-Leeds prop Ryan Bailey is among the Milford professional alumni

Other Milford stars: David Stephenson [Hull FC, Oldham], Richie Mathers [Leeds, Warrington, Castleford], Ryan Atkins [Wakefield, Warrington], Kevin Dick [Leeds, Hull FC],

Other Lock Lane stars: Chris Bibb [Featherstone], Paul Broadbent [Sheffield], Paul Anderson [Leeds, Bradford, St Helens], Grant Anderson [Castleford, Halifax], Liam Watts [Hull FC, Castleford], Greg Eden [Huddersfield, Brisbane, Castleford], Kyle Wood [Wakefield, Huddersfield], Dan Smith [Wakefield, Leeds, Huddersfield]. Cameron Smith [Leeds], Callum Turner [Castleford]

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