For Joe Greenwood, Saturday’s Grand Final is the culmination of a rollercoaster 2018 campaign.
The Wigan forward will grace the Old Trafford turf looking to round off an incredible start to his Wigan career, which has seen the fearsome back-rower earn international recognition for the first time due to his superb form in cherry and white.
But Saturday’s showpiece event couldn’t have been further away at the start of the year, with the 25-year-old’s career in limbo.
Greenwood started the season unwanted at Gold Coast Titans. The new Titans coach, Garth Brennan, had told the Oldham-born star he was not a part of his plans.
“It hurt,” admitted Greenwood, who had been a first-team regular the year before under former coach Neil Henry.
“You just want to play. I was on the other side of the world without my family and not wanted by the coach.
“Everyone said to me that I had the lifestyle, and that was great, but I was over there for one thing and that was to play rugby at the highest level. When I couldn’t get that I wasn’t happy.
“Me and my girlfriend just had each other. You look forward to training, but as the season went on I just lost interest. I wasn’t excited.”
But he was handed a lifeline. Wigan came calling with the prospect of a return to Super League, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Since his return, he’s established himself as one of the competition’s best forwards, as proven by his call-up for the Test series with New Zealand.
“I’m on the way up with Wigan bringing me in and in a Grand Final. It’s emotional.
“When Wigan came in for me I just knew I wanted that move. They welcomed me with open arms, to be here now is insane. Now I’m going to be walking out in front of 70, 80,000 people.
“It was a reality check really. When I first got the opportunity to go over there I was on top of the world, I played all those games. But then this year was a reality check, I had to start from the bottom and come over here and find myself. Hopefully people can tell by the way I’ve been playing I’ve done that. Waney has helped so much.
“I thought it was going to be a dud season to now walking into the Grand Final and being picked for England. I always got my head down and trained hard, now the results are coming.”
Now, Greenwood plans on proving his doubters Down Under wrong in the best way possible; by walking out of Old Trafford with a winner’s ring on his finger.
“You dream of this as a kid.
“We need to keep our heads screwed on and train as hard as we can this week.
“It’s been a rollercoaster year, it started so low with the coach, when he said he didn’t want me.
“I haven’t spoken to him (Garth Brennan), my old coach Neil Henry rang me a few days ago and wished me the best, I’ve been keeping in touch with him and a few days before we left he invited me and my girlfriend round for a few beers and a bbq. He was amazing for me.
I’m trying to not look too far ahead, it’s just been a strange year, but winning would put a cherry on the top.”