Well the anticipation is nearly over and the big day almost upon
us. Boy am I excited for this. I didn't enjoy the Grand Final
build up because their was that lingering doubt that we'd be let
down like so many times before but now we've won a trophy I can
enjoy this one.
It's hard not to be confident either when you've
already seen off both Warrington and St Helens. I can't help
feeling that the hard work has already been done.
I mean don't buy this argument, put about by a Mr E.Hemmings of
Sky TV amongst others, that Leeds have "come into form" ahead
of the cup final. In their last 11 matches, only two of them have
been against sides currently above them in the table, and they
In fact they've won just one match against sides
above them in the table all year and that was a home win over the
side directly above them, Catalan, in May. They did claim a
draw against Wigan in April, also at Headingley when in fairness
we robbed them blind, but they've lost all of the other six. They
failed to win away at either Warrington, St Helens, Wigan or Catalan.
Compare that to Wigan who in their last 11 matches have claimed
four wins against sides currently above Leeds in the table and only one of those wins came at DW
In those last 11 Leeds matches, they lost to Harlequins,
Bradford and struggled badly to win away at Crusaders and Salford.
How? I've watched Salford and Bradford in the last fortnight and
find it hard to understand how they struggled against them.
Still, whatever their form, it is all about on the day and Leeds
do have big game experience. They still have 13 players available
on Saturday who played in the 2009 Grand Final they won against St
Helens. I just don't think they've done enough this season to
suggest they will be able to overhaul Wigan.
However we do
remember 2002. I wrote in the
match preview for that one that "the
more and more St Helens get built up by the press, the more and
more I feel we'll win on Saturday", and we remember what happened.
So you can't right off a shock.
just don't feel though that Leeds can beat us, if we are at our
best. They don't seem to be able to score tries from deep anymore.
Watching the Semi Final against Castleford it seemed that the only
break in them would come from Ben Jones-Bishop? Whereas
Wigan have been breaking for fun in recent weeks with Sam Tomkins,
Josh Charnley, George Carmont and Pat Richards all getting in on
Seriously, my only fear for this final is if Wigan fail
to turn up mentally, and I just can't see that happening under
Michael Maguire. He just has this side so mentally switched on -
week in, week out. They've proved already that they are desperate
to win this cup and that tells me they will be turning up in the
right mental state on Saturday.
In the Grand Final last year,
Wigan came out on fire and took control right from the off and
never looked back. It can be vital to get off to a good start
because history tells you that it is hard to chase down games in
Cup Finals. I think Leeds best chance is to score early and I
expect that they'll be trying to do just that. If we are level or
leading after 20 minutes, we should be very happy with that.
don't really need to point out the danger men for Leeds. If Danny
McGuire turns up, he is always a danger and Rob Burrow is always
buzzing around. The pack though really doesn't worry me one bit.
Under Brian Noble our pack would get run over in most big games
but it just doesn't happen anymore.
The reason the pack battle
doesn't worry me is the age of the Leeds players. I thought it was
interesting after the Semi Finals to watch the two sides "victory
songs" on the tv coverage. Ours after beating St Helens was full of
energy. The Leeds effort looked very tired and lethargic in
Facts are - Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai and Danny
Buderus are aged 33, Ali Lauitiiti is 32, Kevin Sinfield is almost
31 and Jamie Jones-Buchanan is now 30. Compare that to Wigan's
pack - only Andy Coley is aged over 30. In fact in the whole Wigan
squad only George Carmont and Brett Finch (who turned 30 last
Saturday) join him in the over 30 bracket.
This is why I expect
a youthful Wigan side to run them ragged, I really do. The last
half hour of the Bradford game said it all for me. Rather than
switching off, they kept going and totally blitzed a tired Bulls
pack. I won't be surprised if that happens to Leeds on a big
The only real debate for coach Maguire, in terms
of the team, is who to leave out. Unlike Leeds we report a fully
fit 19 man squad. Clearly Darrell Goulding will be left out and
it's between Gareth Hock and Liam Farrell for the other spot.
Personally, I think Hock would edge that. I'm a big Ginger Farrell
fan but Hock offers a little bit more. A whisper tells me Farrell
will get the nod though - we shall see.
Leeds are still
apparently assessing Kallum Watkins and Carl Ablett but personally
I couldn't give a stuff if either play. It's all about what we do
these days rather than the opposition.
Some will obviously point out that
Leeds have done well against us under Maguire at times. The cup
win last year, the play off win last year, the draw at Headingley
this year, even the narrow loss they had at DW Stadium last month.
You have to take that on board but I think this is a different
Wigan team now. In the last few weeks they have grown in so much
confidence, especially after hammering Warrington in their own
back yard. Maybe I'm being too over confident, time will tell. But
whatever happens I'll be bloody enjoying my day out! It's better
than being sat at home watching Warrington or Saints lift the
bloody thing, like we'd done for the past five seasons!
Bring it on! Enjoy your day out - and come on Wigan!!