As bona fide Wiganers go, they don’t come much bigger than current Warriors boss Shaun Wane.
Wane has been embedded into the fabric of the club – and the town – for the majority of this life, and this Saturday, he will coach his hometown club in the biggest game of the Super League season, the Super League Grand Final. And incidentally, the team standing in their way is the perennial great rival of Wigan, St Helens.
Speaking to the media at Monday’s pre-match media conference, Wane spoke openly and passionately about how different this game is to any other. Nothing compares to it, he says. There isn’t a derby in the world that comes close to it, he believes.
Whilst some fans in other parts of the Rugby League land will no doubt disagree, those involved with Wigan and St Helens will know exactly what Wane is talking about, describing the dislike they have for each other as “major”.
“I’ve been brought up with this since I was four, five years old,” Wane says. “I was four or five when my dad took me to watch games. My dad was quite quiet regarding his opinion, but when we played St Helens, it was always different. I saw him change. So it’s been rammed home to me that that game is different to all others.”
“I played in Yorkshire derbies, and there’s nothing that compares to this,” the Wigan coach says. “There’s no doubt about that. This is the main one. We’re not far apart, only 15 or 20 minutes down the road, but the dislike we have for each other is pretty major.”
Wane has experienced the raw emotion of lifting the Super League trophy last year, when he coached Wigan to a unique double, winning both the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup in the same season. And he admits the significance of Wigan v St Helens makes Saturday extra special – and is keen to join an illustrious band of coaches who have retained a Super League title.
“For a local lad like me, lifting the trophy was a feeling I want again and again. I’ll never ever get sick of winning trophies and challenging for big games. And it doesn’t come any bigger than Wigan v Saints.”