The waiting is almost over, and Saturday is almost here. Bitter rivals Wigan Warriors and St Helens are set to do battle on the biggest stage of all – with the right to be called Super League champions the prize on offer.
For Wigan, victory would ensure a second straight victory at Old Trafford, putting coach Shaun Wane amongst an illustrious group of men to have retained the title in two consecutive years. As for the Saints, they can send Nathan Brown home on a real high – and end a dismal run that has seen them lose in their previous five Grand Final appearances.
And as always with games of this magnitude, the key battles are likely to have a huge outcome in the destination of the famous trophy, and decide whether it will be Sean O’Loughlin or Paul Wellens who is lifting it come 8pm Saturday night.
But just where are the key battles on the field, and who is going to be vital to their team’s chances of victory? TotalRL examines the key battles..
Full-Back: Matty Bowen v Paul Wellens
Two experienced pros will line up at full-back for both Wigan and St Helens on Saturday, as Paul Wellens and Matty Bowen look to guide their side to victory in the Grand Final. And whilst Wellens – who is set to tie Jamie Peacock’s record of ten Grand Final appearances – has slotted back in at full-back due to the injury to Jonny Lomax, Bowen has been cemented in that spot all year. But which No.1 will give their team in the edge, in both attack and defence?
Wing: Joe Burgess v Tommy Makinson
They are arguably the two biggest breakout stars of 2014, and on Saturday night, both Joe Burgess and Tommy Makinson will be battling it out in a titanic tussle on the wing. Burgess has been a revelation for the Warriors, and it is his try that got Wigan to Old Trafford last weekend. As for Makinson, he will be keen to show Steve McNamara why he deserved a place in the Four Nations squad, after being left out earlier this week with some incredible finishing.
Hooker: Michael McIlorum v James Roby
Perhaps the biggest battle of all will come in the front row, but not amongst the props who are set to slug it out – more the two hookers, who are both vital to their team’s chance of success. Michael McIlorum has enjoyed another strong year in a Wigan shirt, and will be looking to finish the season on a real high at Old Trafford on Saturday. But standing in his way is the incredible James Roby, who many feel was unlucky to miss out on the Man of Steel award on Wednesday. If Roby fires, will the Saints win?