Smith says captaining Wigan at Old Trafford the highlight of his career

He’s won everything there is to win domestically in Britsh rugby league. He’s even played for England in a Test series victory against New Zealand.

But for Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith, nothing will top the feeling of pride he will get when he leads Wigan out onto the field at Old Trafford this Saturday.

Smith is no stranger to Old Trafford; having played there on numerous occasions for both Wigan and St Helens – the club he’s widely expected to re-sign for in 2017.

But before that, Smith gets to captain Wigan in a major final – and he admits it will be the biggest moment of his career bar none.

“It’s special for me,” he tells TotalRL. “Don’t get me wrong, we’d have loved Lockers to be out there and playing with us, but it’s an absolute honour to lead this group of players out.

“It’s been a great place to be all year and the character we have is incredible. To walk out at the front of these lads and lead them out in a Grand Final will be the highlight of my career, without doubt.

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“To be able to captain them into battle after the adversity we’ve gone through is great. People have put us down, and rightly so on occasions, because we haven’t performed – but the fact we’re here says a lot about us and how much we’ve given to get to this point.”

But for all the pride, adrenaline and euphoria that will be flowing through Smith’s veins on Saturday evening, there will be a very clear memory in the back of his mind: Wigan’s recent record at Old Trafford.

Some players have admitted in the build-up to this week they won’t give defeat in major finals a second thought – but it is obvious that for Smith, it is a point of personal motivation.

“I think it’s in the memory bank and it’s there,” he said of Wigan’s last two defeats at Old Trafford.

“For the lads who have played in those games, it’s hard to forget, especially when you come back here. Winning and losing here are the two ends of the scale and you try to use it as a positive.

“We’ve got to treat it like another game, which is easier said than done when there’s 70,000 people here. In my first Grand Final I was like a rabbit in the headlights so we’ve got to be ready, raring to go and treat it like any other game.

“There’s nothing much lower in sport, to get all that way to the final and sit on the grass and watch the opposition run around you lifting the trophy. It’s not just after the game either, you have to see it on repeat for months on end and it stays with you until you kick off the following season. It’s a long off-season, it’s all you think about and that’s motivation enough for me to get it done on Saturday night.”