The Garry Schofield Column: Why Super League should stick with Old Trafford for Grand Finals

I CAN still recall the relentless Mancunian rain – but also the fantastic atmosphere.

Turn back the clock 37 years to 1986, and we were in the middle of an Ashes series on home soil.

The RFL had broken with tradition – if I recall correctly, it was one of the many initiatives of that forward-thinking PR chief David Howes – by taking the first Test to Old Trafford.

Despite the awful weather, they were rewarded with a turn-out of more than 50,000, and while the Aussies beat us 38-16, although only after we rallied at the start of the second half and pulled them back to within six points, the noise generated within the stadium, where the crowd are close to the pitch and the whole place has that enclosed feel, was something else.

We went back in 1990, and it was even better.

This time it was the second Test, and we’d won the first at Wembley 19-12.

We went to Old Trafford seeking a first Ashes series success since 1970 (the Aussies had won 3-0 in 1986 and 2-1 Down Under in 1988).

And with the hooter beckoning, and another big crowd, more than 46,000, in great voice, the game was tied at 10-10 with the stadium rocking.

But then the Aussies struck, with Ricky Stuart running clear down the right to set up Mal Meninga for the match-winning try, and with a 14-10 win in the bag, they beat us 14-0 at Elland Road in Leeds to wrap things up.

I’ve played at some great grounds, both here and in the southern hemisphere, but I have to say that after Wembley, the world-famous home of Manchester United was the best.

I’m pretty sure many other players would say the same, which is why I’d be against taking the Grand Final away from Old Trafford.

With the contract to stage that match running out next year, I’ve seen suggestions of moving it to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium or St James’ Park in Newcastle, among other places.

They are both great grounds, and they’ve both staged Rugby League over the years, but they don’t have that ‘iconic’ tag of Wembley or Old Trafford, and for something like the Grand Final, the showpiece occasion of the domestic season, I think that’s needed.

I know Old Trafford has its faults, with those small in-goal areas and the need for modernisation, which, when it does happen, may mean that Grand Final has to be moved, at least for a few years.

But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, I don’t think there’s a more special place to stage this special game in the north of England, so my plea to the powers that be is stick with it.