Prior to my life with Clive Gott and apart from an interest in rugby (players!) at college I have never been a sports fan.
So to be at a rugby league final at Wembley and actually caring at the outcome is still quite novel for me.
Last year the road to Wembley with Leeds Rhinos was of course with Clive. He had so wanted to take me to experience a RL final. Our neighbour Mark had kindly driven us into Leeds where we'd got a direct National Express coach to Wembley. We'd got the back seat for more leg room and enjoyed the journey snuggled up. He was SO excited. At Leicester Forest services there was even a vendor selling regalia, flags, etc! It all added to the atmosphere.
Once at Wembley we'd had the expensive food and drink but it was all part of the experience!
Before the main game some school boys played - what an achievement for them. Clive felt proud for them, as he would!
When 'Abide with me' was traditionally sung I watched him getting emotional and fell in love with him all over again!
Even though the game saw Leeds slaughtered at 6 - 30 to Warrington it was still an incredible time. I had never appreciated the buzz from standing on a terrace singing, gasping and cheering until recent years.
On the quiet journey back Clive was listening to a personal development programme on his iPod in preparation for writing his next book (which he wrote during our cruise a few weeks later - 'It's not your time, it's the time you have'). In between we kept sending each other daft and teasing texts even though we were sitting next to each other! Mark picked us up from Leeds and we were back home by 10 pm with yet another memorable day behind us.
When Clive spoke to the young Rhino academy players (his babies, he called them), they usually discussed what goals they had. Playing at Wembley was something they aspired to. Hence when the team qualified this time I felt I should go. It just seemed right.
This time I wanted to share the experience with Dom. Had Clive been alive all 3 of us would have gone so I didn't feel he was the substitute - just someone else was missing.
I wore the same T-shirt as last year and also one of his jackets to feel he was with us. Once again we got the National Express coach. Same seats too! Although I missed Clive I was excited to be taking Dom in his Leeds Rhino T-shirt. Only snag was that it was so cold on the coach! No tears though.
At Wembley we walked to meet up with Pete, Mandy and the children. He was in trouble for sending us to the wrong tube station to meet up! A drink served as penance! They are actually Wigan fans - our rivals! But they are two of the good things about rugby league - it is friendly and very family orientated.
Some of the fans had dressed up as Smurfs, in tutus, Indonesian tribesmen with mascot 'Ronnie' on a spear and we spotted the 'band' dressed as Indians!
I posed for a photo under the same sign Clive and I had last year. What a difference a year makes? Who could have known that would be our first and last trip together there? Almost as soon as we'd got home he'd put the photo in a frame.
Once in the Arena we soaked up the atmosphere. Our seats were in the lowest tier near the 20m line.
We watched some of the school boys game. Dom commented that it must be amazing for them. I was disappointed there was no Guinness to drink!
Before the game began there was a band, dance troops, fireworks and other pitch activities leading to Rhydian singing 'Abide with me'. That did it!
I felt the comradeship amongst the Leeds fans; the love and appreciation of my son; pride at the Rhinos team ... and the incredulous pain and loss of Clive.
I sang my broken heart out with the tears falling and my arms wrapped tightly round me, aching for Clive's touch and grief that he wasn't there to share in this with us.
But then I knew I had to ride the wave and get on with today's experience! As the crowd roared I was so pleased to be there with Dom for his first time in Wembley.
As the match began there was an air that the cup was already Wigan's and when the score became 16 - 0 to them, defeat hung around like stale fish. Then Leeds came back! The fans went wild! I physically felt sick several times!
Back and forth the ball and players went, taking our emotions on a rollercoaster of ecstasy and agony. About 10 minutes from the end all we needed was one more converted try to draw so winning became within reach. Like many others I was on the edge of my seat watching through my fingers. Please, please win - for Clive, for Sue and Scott, for Dom, for yourselves ...
Then in the last minutes Wigan scored and that, as they say, was that.
All the photos are here
Needless to say we were disappointed but not crushed. I felt Leeds had certainly fought back - just not enough. The match was entertaining and exciting and I am so glad to have been.
As I wrote this on the coach back I was exhausted in a satisfied way. It was fun!
Better luck next time Rhinos!
Today I have crashed down on the roller coaster again! I am letting small disappointments and tiredness knock me - time to get positive and do some 'feel goods'!