St Helens forward Sia Soliola is hoping it will be third time lucky for him at Old Trafford on Sunday so that he can finish his Super League career on a high note with a Grand Final victory.
Soliola, who has spent five seasons with Saints, has played in two Grand Finals for the club, in 2010 and 2011, and lost both of them. The 28-year-old is returning to the NRL and will join the Canberra Raiders at the end of this season.
He will join St Helens coach Nathan Brown on the plane back to Australia, as Brown announced his departure from Langtree Park last Friday, forgoing the final year of his three-year contract with the club.
St Helens booked their place in the decider with a grinding 30-12 victory over Catalan Dragons at Langtree Park last Thursday.
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“It was pretty tough at the start,” Soliola admitted.
“We knew they’d come out firing. They had some opportunities and we knew it was going to be tough, especially in that first 20 minutes. But we thought that if we could stick with them and try and hold them, then in the second half we’d probably come out on top, which we did.”
The Dragons struck first, but Saints went into half-time 12-6 ahead and then scored three tries in the next 40 minutes to close the game out.
“There was probably some nervous energy, but I thought we composed ourselves really well,” Soliola said.
“Full credit to our defence. That’s what got us out of trouble and steadied the ship. In the second half everything just went to plan. We controlled the ruck and we scored the points that we needed.”
Soliola said the chance to win a Grand Final in his final game for Saints has got him buzzing.
“It’s like what Browny’s been saying, if you think of all the injuries we’ve had, the chance of us going to Old Trafford probably looked slim,” he said.
“But we held together and full credit to the boys, everyone came together really, really well. Winning at Old Trafford is right there. I’ve been there twice and not made it over the line yet, so it’d be nice to finish off that way. It’d be good.”
Soliola, who joined the club from the Sydney Roosters in 2010, has scored nine tries in 27 games this year and has enjoyed an impressive season. He is the third highest try-scorer for St Helens in 2014 and is ranked second in carries and tackles.
Saints were largely written off by many after suffering season-ending injuries to Luke Walsh, Jon Wilkin and Johnny Lomax, but Soliola says the loss of so many playmakers has spurred the side on.
“We’ve used it as motivation, but at the same time I think we’ve tried to prove it more to ourselves than anybody else,” the second-rower said.
“We’ve had to adjust roles and positions, and create a new playing style. The boys have done a really good job, and we’re now just 80 minutes away from making all those critics disappear, because winning just takes care of everything doesn’t it?”
Soliola was penalised in the 77th minute of Thursday’s match for a hit on Thomas Bosc. The incident wasn’t put on report and he doesn’t believe he will face any further action.
“If anything, it was probably late but my arm still came around and it wasn’t a shoulder charge or anything,” Soliola said.
“It wasn’t put on report so I don’t think there’s much to look at.”