Of all the lines rolled out by players this week, Wigan Warriors scrum-half Matty Smith was adamant about one particular message when he addressed the media ahead of the Super League Grand Final.
Simply put, Old Trafford is “no place for losers” – something he is only too aware of. After all, Smith was on the other side of the fence the last time Wigan and St Helens met in a Super League Grand Final, appearing as a 23-year-old in the Saints’ defeat to the Warriors back in 2010.
He told TotalRL.com of his memories from that night, admitting it was “disappointing” and “awful”, and admits it probably does taste sweeter to win one when you’ve lost one first.
“It was a disappointing night; it was my first Grand Final so I was ridiculously excited – and it was my first Wigan-Saints derby, too! To play in a Grand Final was pretty big, but it’s no place for losers is this arena. The disappointment is just awful surrounding it; but then the feeling we got last year was ridiculous – and we want that again.
“Like I said, Old Trafford is simply no place for losers.
“You probably appreciate it a little bit more when you lose one, yeah. You don’t want to lose any if you can help it, and we certainly don’t want to lose Saturday. We started way back last Christmas, running up hills in the snow, and we’ve put a lot of effort to get to this moment – we don’t want to waste the hard work.”
Smith says the excitement around Old Trafford week doesn’t decrease each and every time he comes back, but says the whole experience probably passed him by back in 2010. As an older head now, he admits he is trying to ensure Wigan’s young crop of players savour every moment – and touched on just how important the buildup to the game is for Old Trafford debutants.
“There’s excitement, nerves and everything all rolled into one. When we drove into the stadium it brought back great memories from last year, and it’s great to walk around the pitch and the changing rooms to get a feel for this place once again.
“It’s important; it’s important for the young lads and it’s good for the senior blokes to impart some wisdom on them and tell them what it’s all about. Back in 2010 when it was my first Grand Final it almost passed me by – the week and the game itself. It’s important for them to come and feel comfortable and safe with where they will be sitting and what they’ll be doing on Saturday night.”
Smith, like many Wigan players, spoke extensively about the culture Shaun Wane has built up at Wigan – saying that if Wane ever left, it would be tough to keep up the infamous Wigan culture, such is his passion for the club.
“Matty Peet and John Winder really drive the ethos all the way through the academy right up to first team, from the way we play to the way we act. The young lads have come in and done a brilliant job, and they’ve done such a good job because of the culture at Wigan.
“Without Waney though, the culture would go to be honest. He’s the heartbeat, and he’s the man who drives the culture and the determination of this club forward.”