Major finals are becoming a regular occurrence for Joe Batchelor but he is not going to start taking them for granted.
Batchelor’s rise – from League One to an England international in four years – has been remarkable and he is looking to make it three wins from three in finals by adding the 2022 Super League Grand Final to Challenge Cup final and Grand Final triumphs last season.
The St Helens back-rower may have been a late developer and had to travel the hard way to the top, via Dewsbury Celtic, Australia and Coventry, but he always held out hope of taking part in such occasions.
“It’s something I’ve always been striving towards,” he said. “I remember being stood on the terraces watching other Grand Finals and thinking ‘I want a piece of that’, watching teams lift it.
“Then being part of the squad but not playing much, watching Saints win I knew it was something I definitely wanted to do. I knew I was at the right club to have these chances.”
Saints are looking to lift the Super League trophy for the fourth season running, not that they can ever take it for granted.
“It’s a tough thing, only two teams get to play in this every year,” said Batchelor. “To have a chance of doing it every season, you have to work really hard and deliver performances.
“I’m really excited and grateful to be here but I need to make sure it’s a memorable one by lifting the trophy at the end of it as well.”
To do so St Helens will have to overcome Leeds Rhinos, and Batchelor may find himself in a personal battle against former teammate James Bentley, who left the Totally Wicked Stadium for Headingley last year.
He said: “We spent a lot of time together, me and Bentos, during training. Especially in the first couple of years we were doing back-row stuff together, helping each other out.
“So I know he’s a competitor. I know he’ll be doing everything to win on Saturday just as we will. He’s not going to back down from any challenge as we’ve seen before.
“But he’s a good player and I’m glad he’s finding his form for Leeds. I just hope it’s not on Saturday!”
*For a full feature on Joe Batchelor’s journey, grab a copy of the next issue of Rugby League World which comes out next week. Click here for more details.