The Challenge Cup Final takes place on Saturday 25 August, but there is little excitement surrounding the occasion; French side Catalans Dragons are appearing in their first final since 2007, but most Rugby League fans are more bothered about predicting the attendance rather than lauding the huge achievement made by a club almost relegated in 2017.

Catalans' first ever major final in 2007 was also the year the new Wembley Stadium opened. But, after the initial buzz of the Challenge Cup Final's return to Wembley following an eight-year absence, the Challenge Cup has fast become marginalised by the more grandiose Super League Grand Final held in October.

But, that's now how it used to be; the Challenge Cup once took precedence over the Championship (as it was called before the advent of Super League in 1996) and it's incredibly sad to see the decline of such a prestigious competition. However, the cup still holds a lot of significance - there is no reason why the magic cannot be brought back.

Move to the summer game

Prior to Super League's creation in 1996, the Challenge Cup Final was held in April, moving to May in 1997 and then to August in 2005. The Championship was played through the winter - the side that finished top were called Champions - with the Premiership play-offs - comprised of usually eight teams - ending in May and the victor being crowned Premiership winners - importantly, the Premiership winners were not "Champions".

Super League's foundation saw the Premiership scrapped - although it continued until the end of 1997 when it was replaced by the Grand Final which debuted in 1998. From that point on the Challenge Cup has been batted down by those at the top in favour of Sky Sports' project, the Grand Final.

That apathy has been picked up by the fans too - particularly supporters of Super League sides whom now see the Grand Final as the be all and end all.

The fans need to brought back onside with the competition and perhaps the main way to do that is to host the Challenge Cup when the Super League, Championship and League 1 seasons are not in play. The solution: play the Challenge Cup before the season starts.

Season effectively split in two

Critics may argue that playing the Challenge Cup prior to the season would extend the Rugby League year too far, yet, the winter game's season lasted from August until May.

That's just two months break, whilst nowadays clubs have three months between the end of the season and the beginning of the new one - and in some cases four months if that team fails to qualify for the Super League play-offs.

The sporting calendar does not have to start any earlier; let the Challenge Cup begin at the start of February and play the rounds every week until the final nine weeks later. That includes the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, the quarter- and semi-finals and the final. Make the final a showpiece event; celebrate it as the end of a cup tournament, but also the beginning of the season.

New signings on show

How good would it be if new superstar signings debuted in the Challenge Cup?

Rather than appearing in the first few weeks of Super League when - although the start of a season is important - nothing is won, imagine stars such as Warrington's incoming halfback Blake Austin debuting in a knockout competition where everything is laid on the line for 80 minutes in a bid to get to the famous Wembley Stadium.

The stakes are a lot higher than the start of a season, especially as the number of competitors gets less and less. Although the cup has lost a lot of its appeal, moving it to the start of the Rugby League calendar when fans, teams, and coaches are fresh and raring to go and when new signings are waiting in the wings to show their new clubs what they can do, the magic that once surrounded the Challenge Cup could be reignited.

Both competitions have their own stage

Giving the Challenge Cup its own stage, its own spot in the Rugby League year when nothing else can distract fans, teams and coaches will go a long way to reviving the competition. The Grand Final would still have all the razzmatazz that it deserves, but the Challenge Cup would no longer be sidelined for it. Weeks, even months, go by in-between cup fixtures and fans simply lose track of the competition.

Having the competition fixtures one week after another will keep supporters engaged; fans will be talking about the cup every week for two months until a winner has been found. No longer would the Challenge Cup be lost in the myriad of Super League fixtures, no longer would the cup be forgotten or a junior partner. Give the Challenge Cup the airplay it deserves; making it a separate entity to the regular season could definitely see it thrive and isn't that what all Rugby League fans want?