In this week’s League Express, Garry Schofield highlights the key battles in the upcoming Grand Final between Wigan and Leeds. We’ve had a look at the stats to compare some of the big stars that could decide the Old Trafford showpiece.
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Zak Hardaker has had a terrific season for Leeds, however Wigan’s full-back Matty Bowen has also been impressive. In fact, Bowen’s attacking stats stand out, with a better try-to-game ratio and more assists than Hardaker. However, it is Hardaker’s defensive abilities that have seen him gain so many plaudits this year, with many claiming he is the best defensive full-back in the world.
Bowen will be desperate to avenge his disappointing Grand Final performance of last year in his final ever game for Wigan, but in Hardaker he has a full-back rival who will be just as keen to shine.
There’s no doubting Ryan Hall’s talents, and is undoubtedly one of the best wingers in the world. However, Dom Manfredi has had an exceptional season, incredibly outscoring Hall in Super League despite playing nine games less.
Manfredi looks like a player full of confidence at the minute and will pose a huge threat to the Leeds defence. Hall will cause similar problems to Wigan’s fringes, and the most effective of the two could be the difference between the teams.
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The biggest testament to Kallum Watkins would be the outcry at his exclusion from the Man of Steel shortlist. His terrific season has really seen him hit new heights, and few would bet against him delivering again at Old Trafford.
He comes up against Oliver Gildart, who has burst onto the scene this year and actually has a better try-scoring rate to Watkins.
If Gildart can match up in defence, an area where Watkins has looked far better over the course of the season, it could very well prove to be the latest coming of age for a young Wigan star.
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There’s no question about it, both sides need their half-backs to perform on Saturday. All four have been hugely influential in their team’s success this year.
Wigan’s combination of Smith and Williams has worked a treat; it’s a typical partnership of opportunist and director. William’s attacking exploits have ripped teams to shreds this year, whilst Smith has guided his team around the field impeccably.
As for Sinfield and McGuire, they’ve delivered, countless times, on Rugby League’s biggest occasions. Sinfield will be dreaming of a fairytale end to his career, and Wigan’s half-backs will have to produce another masterful display to stop that happening.
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On paper, Adam Cuthbertson has been the superior player this year. But in Sean O’Loughlin Wigan have a leader that has consistently delivered in the big games. There’s no doubting that Cuthbertson has set the competition alight this year, but a dominant individual victory for him over O’Loughlin in the final will send his reputation to new levels.
For extensive build-up of Saturday’s Grand Final, buy League Express, available in stores now.