It’s only normal for players to feel a whole range of emotions ahead of their first ever Grand Final: and Matty Russell is no different.
However, the Warrington winger’s first appearance at Old Trafford will be extra strange on Saturday – as it’s against the club with whom he started his career and a club he holds so close to his heart: Wigan.
“It’s a bit strange, being against my hometown club and the team who I made my debut for,” he admits to TotalRL.
“I never thought I’d be in this position; when you’re a youngster you start to wonder where your career will take you but to be playing against Wigan in a Grand Final is very strange, but also special.
“My family and friends are all from Wigan, they all support Wigan and will be tuning in wanting them to win! I get a few funny looks walking around Wigan! To be fair they’re all brilliant but I’m on the back end of some jokes sometimes.
“I was suited up watching Wigan in 2010, being on the fringes of the first-team squad, so I know what it’s like to an extent. However I’m sure you can’t replicate what it’s like being on the field. I was here watching Wigan last year and the atmosphere was amazing so I just can’t wait.”
And unlike most players who are debuting in the Grand Final, Russell openly admits to having some nerves – but says Warrington are more than capable of handling the occasion and finally winning the big one at the third time of asking.
“There’s a bit of nerves, but nothing different to any other game really,” he says.
“Walking around Old Trafford this week gets you ready, but from experiences I’ve had at Wembley, I tend to thrive off these big-game scenarios. We’ve had a great year so far with the League Leader’s Shield and the nerves will be tingling going into the biggest game of the year.
“It would be the biggest achievement of my career so far, without a doubt. To make history here with the Wolves would be incredible. Having never won here, that creates an energy and a drive within us to get it done. Look at Cronulla, they’ve not won one for years: why can’t we?”
Warrington’s last meeting with Wigan saw the Warriors overturn a 12-point deficit with a man disadvantage to provide what turned out to be only a temporary dent in the Wolves’ hunt for the League Leader’s Shield.
The Wolves were written off by many following that night – but Russell believes that it will prove to be of huge importance in the long run.
“After losing to Wigan, being so far in front and a man up, was very disappointing.
“We’ve bounced back so well though and I think in hindsight we might have needed that kick up the backside. We were written off at Hull, we were told we can’t beat St Helens at home and look what happened. We’ve learned so much and come on so much this year as a group and it all stands us in good stead for Saturday night.
“I haven’t let myself dream yet. I didn’t want to touch the trophy in case there was some bad luck coming into play! It’s the battle of the best and it couldn’t be a better backdrop; Wigan v Warrington, first v second, a local derby. It’s incredible.”