Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves are set for a repeat of 2013 in this Saturday’s Super League Grand Final.
Warrington will be hoping to win their first Grand Final, building on their recent success of the 2016 League Leaders Shield, but the Super League title has eluded Warrington for many years.
Warrington were most recently runners up in 2013’s final, against this weekend’s opponents Wigan, who scored 24 second-half points to pip Warrington to the title, despite the Wolves leading 16-6 at the interval.
Warrington will be hoping to amend past mistakes, the very basis of which is that despite typically strong finishing positions in the Super League table, they have never been able to capitalise fully on their success and win the Grand Final.
Even this year, they faced adversity. After a strong start to the season and a Challenge Cup Final appearance, Warrington succumbed to defeat against Hull at Wembley and only weeks later suffered at the hands of 12-man Wigan to lose 35-28 and keep Warrington hands off the League Leaders Shield for another week.
Warrington overcame their demons the following week to finish the season in 1st place, but the capitulation to lose after being 14 points up against 12 men will be something that plays on Warrington minds throughout the final, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they have the mental strength to overcome that.
Despite all this, they have shown throughout the season that they have more than enough in their squad to become Super League champions.
Chris Hill has been a revelation ever since his introduction to top flight rugby league and has continued to grow this year and will be a key player on the weekend.
Furthermore, Warrington will be buoyed by the return of Chris Sandow. The half-back has been injured since the Challenge Cup Final, but was instrumental to Warrington’s attack previously and could prove the difference should he play.
Wigan Warriors, coming off the back of an injury-stricken season, enter Saturday’s Grand Final as the in-form team, winning five of their last six games and only going down to a strong Hull FC, who they eventually defeated in last week’s semi-final.
The Warriors will be without talismanic full-back Sam Tomkins and captain Sean O’Loughlin after tearing his calf muscle two weeks ago.
These injuries feature as part of a long list which includes the absences of Dominic Manfredi, Tony Clubb, Joel Tomkins and Michael McIlorum. This has forced the Warriors outfit to have faith in its youth for the majority of the season, with Lewis Tierney impressing most throughout the season, and capping that off with two tries in Wigan’s semi-final win.
However, it will be a test of their character if this youthful side can overcome a strong Warrington team.
Especially with Wigan coming off the back of three previous Grand Final losses, another one would be a cause for concern and it shows that both sides have a lot to lose in equal measure.
Wigan’s game changers come in the picture of in-form centre Anthony Gelling who, on his day, has controlled games on his own for the Warriors. And if they create the space to free up expert finisher Josh Charnley, on his last game in a Wigan shirt, they will not be far off a victory on the weekend.
Wigan Warriors head coach, Shaun Wane, said: “It’s a great team spirit. We’ve had some real close to the heart team meetings this week and the will they’ve got to fight for each other is strong.
“Tony’s smart, and the Warrington Wolves players are smart. And we’ll get burned if we play like we did against Hull.”
Warrington Wolves head coach, Tony Smith, said: “At the start of the season we set out to win trophies and just as we did at Wembley [when Warrington reached the Challenge Cup Final], we’ve given ourselves a chance.”
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