It doesn’t take a genius to work out Shaun Wane’s feelings when it comes to the Good Friday derby between his beloved Wigan and St Helens.
Debate will probably rage until the end of time as to what the biggest derby in Super League is: people from the two towns either side of the Billinge Lump will tell you there’s one game that officially has the tag of ‘derby’ attached to it.
So it’s therefore no surprise to learn that Wane prioritises the game above any other ahead of the first meeting of rugby league’s two big rivals this year.
He admitted earlier this week: “It’s everything. In my eyes it’s the biggest derby in Super League without question. I’ve played in a Yorkshire one and nothing compares to this.
“It doesn’t matter where the teams are in the competition, form goes out of the window and it’s two teams absolutely committed. Having said that, the two clubs have a lot of respect for each other and I have respect for what they do, but when it comes to game-day, that rivalry is the most fierce of all.
“I’m from Wigan, I’ve played in these games and I know what it means – it means everything. They’re coming in their thousands and it’s a fantastic atmosphere and I can’t wait: it’s a must-win game for both clubs.”
Wane has also made a point this week of hammering home just how important the game is to his players. To the Wigan-born players, the fixture needs no introduction – but Wane has ensured the non-Wiganers know exactly how big it is.
“I make sure all those guys know how important this is to us,” he said.
“We’ve got a few in the group so they’ll be ready, but I just have to make sure guys like Frank-Paul (Nuuausala), T (Taulima Tautai) and Clubby (Tony Clubb) understand that this is the game that means everything to people from Wigan and St Helens. I
“verbalise it in a way which I wouldn’t like to say! But they understand I mean it and it means something to us all.”
The Easter period often cops criticism from players, coaches and pundits at this time of year – but Wane has a noticeably different viewpoint.
He said: “I love this period. The timing of it with our problems could have been better but I like it; staff have to work hard, we have to be smart and make sure the players get quality into them with everything we do.
“It’s a great test for everyone in Super League and our record over the period is very good. It’s something which we really enjoy. I just want everyone to go full-on on Friday and we’ll patch things up on Saturday and Sunday to make sure we’ve got a team ready to play on Monday.
“It’s pressure. We have to work hard and we have to be smart. We’ve got information abbot Wakefield but we’ve got to prioritise things about Friday. It’s long hours for the staff; we’re at home clipping games and it’s good pressure – I like it. We’ve got another one coming up too and it’s good for me, I do like it. It’s a good test of your strength in depth, your staff and everyone at the club.”