Wigan Warriors and head coach Shaun Wane are intent on gaining redemption following last season’s final defeat to St Helens as they prepare for the Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.
The Rhinos and the Warriors, who finished the season in first and second respectively, will meet at Old Trafford this Saturday in a replay of the 1998 Grand Final in which Wigan came out on top.
Both finalists have players for whom this game will be their last, with Wigan’s Matty Bowen and Leeds’ Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai all playing their last game for their club.
Wigan and Leeds will both want to send these players, their friends, out on a high and what better way to do it than with victory at a sold-out Old Trafford.
But Wigan head coach Shaun Wane insists his side are determined to spoil the fairy-tale ending the Yorkshire club are hoping for.
‘‘We speak about it,’’ he said.
‘‘One of the best people I have met, Jamie Peacock, he’s retiring. Kylie Leuluai, Kevin Sinfield, they have some passion to win the game and some desire.
‘‘The only thing what I am in control of and what the players are in control of is how we train and how we play and how we approach this game on Saturday.
‘‘We are going down absolutely hell-bent on trying to get this trophy but I have every respect for what they do at Leeds.’’
Full-back Matty Bowen is retiring at the end of this season after 14 years in the game and is set to finish his career playing in his third Grand Final.
He has lost in both finals to date, once in the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys, and then with Wigan last season, but speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, the former Australia International insisted the dream is still alive.
‘‘You dream of playing in the Grand Finals when you’re a young kid and having that ring on your finger,’’ he said.
‘‘Obviously we get our opportunity this weekend, but Leeds won’t just go to Old Trafford and lay down, it’s going to be a tough day.
‘‘Everyone keeps saying ‘third-time-lucky’, but I don’t want to say that – I just want to get out there and do my job the best I can.
‘‘Whatever happens at the end of the 80 minutes, if it was to be then so be it – I can’t wait, I’m excited.’’
The Wigan side will also want to right the wrongs of last season’s final defeat, a game marred by the sending off of Wigan’s Ben Flower and coach Wane insists he is keener than ever to be crowned champions.
‘‘It would mean absolutely everything, everything,’’ said Wane.
‘‘I’m obsessed with my work… that’s why I work hard and long hours.
‘‘I cannot imagine anybody wanting it more than I want it because this club has been my life for many, many years.’’
‘‘I am pretty obsessed on making sure that we get what we deserve this year.’’
Image courtesy of Tetleys Challenge Cup via YouTube, with thanks.