Talking Rugby League: Familiar teams but an intriguing prospect awaits at Old Trafford

Only four teams have won the Super League title in the first 26 years of the competition’s existence.

One of those, Bradford Bulls, has fallen on hard times and is now in the Championship.

The other three are St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors, and two out of those three will contest the Grand Final once again this Saturday.

It’s a reminder, if one were needed, that we need to broaden the number of teams that are capable of winning major trophies.

Huddersfield Giants almost did it in the Challenge Cup Final this year and Catalans Dragons came agonisingly close in the Grand Final last year.

The problem for those teams is that they almost reach the summit but then fall back among the other contenders rather than being able to generate sustained success.

It happened to the Giants when they were well beaten at home by Salford Red Devils in the opening week of the play-offs last weekend.

But despite all that, it would be an unusual Rugby League supporter who isn’t looking forward to the showdown at Old Trafford this Saturday.

And that is partly due to the amazing resurgence of Leeds this season.

From looking down and out earlier in the season, they have recovered amazingly well to earn a place in the Grand Final that no one could have possibly expected earlier in the season.

When they visited St Helens at the end of June to be hammered 42-12, they were in tenth place with eleven points from 16 games, 17 points behind St Helens.

But in their last eleven games of the regular season they picked up another nine wins for 18 more points, pushing them into fifth place, just 13 points behind St Helens, who only picked up 14 points from their last eleven games.

So it isn’t stretching things too far to say that the Rhinos are coming into the Grand Final as the team in form.

St Helens have stumbled once or twice later in the season, which in some cases was at least partially due to their coach Kristian Woolf giving some of his leading players a rest when it became inevitable that they would win the league.

On Saturday St Helens will go into the Grand Final without the injured Alex Walmsley and the suspended Morgan Knowles.

Will that proved too big a burden to bear or do St Helens have the squad depth to compensate for two key forwards?

If both teams play at their very best, then there is little doubt that St Helens should have enough ammunition to win the title.

It’s going to be absolutely fascinating to witness what should be a wonderful game.

The above content, which is an amended version of Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column in League Express, is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.