Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors will meet in the 19th Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. It will be the second meeting between both sides in this prestigious Final, the first one was won 30-16 by Wigan in 2013. Warrington will be looking to win their maiden Grand Final trophy, while Wigan will be looking to secure their fourth. It should be a great game, and one worthy of being a Final.

ROAD TO THE GRAND FINAL

Warrington Wolves have had a great season. For a side who have missed a few key players throughout, they’ve kept on track and after a couple of little blips here and there, managed to finish the season as Challenge Cup Finalists, League Leaders and a spot in the Grand Final. Now, losing the Challenge Cup would’ve really hurt Warrington, and many will think it will play on their minds and cause them to ‘bottle it’ yet again at Old Trafford. However, I think it’ll be the complete opposite. Even though Warrington have never tasted the success of winning in a Grand Final, I believe this year could be their best chance to date. They face a Wigan side who are missing five key players, and are there for there taking. With Sandow returning to the squad, that will only boost the Warrington side, and give the players a little confidence high too.

Warrington go into this game with back-to-back victories over Hull FC and St Helens. The first of the two was a 23-6 victory away at Hull FC, one in which secured them first place and the League Leaders Shield. It was a tough game for Warrington who had just missed the chance the week before by losing to Wigan at home. However, Warrington bounced back with considerable ease after a dominant display over FC, to lift their first trophy of the season. Their last match was the play-off semi-final where they played St Helens at home. It was a real tough and close encounter throughout, one which pressured both sides. However, Warrington prevailed as 18-10 winners and would claim a spot in their third Grand Final.

Wigan Warriors have had a real hot and cold season. They started off in great form, winning their opening five games in the League. However, as was the story of their season, injuries started to appear. They lost key player after key player, while also waiting for Sam Tomkins to make his return. They was doing it tough, but hung in there. However, it all seemed to fall apart as they lost their first game at home (to then) high flying Widnes Vikings. Wigan managed to continue getting the results against sides they should, however, in those big games against the likes of Warrington and Hull FC, they were getting beaten rather easily. They picked up their form and were on a great run of victories which sky-rocketed them up the table and back in the mix, late in the season.

Wigan go into this game on the back of four straight wins, two of which came away at Hull FC and Warrington Wolves. They’ve had a great run of form in the final month of the season, scoring some great tries and securing some big victories over their League rivals. While they have yet to win a trophy this season, they’ve managed to get to the Challenge Cup Semi-Final and finish second in the League, proving all the doubters wrong. Their play-off semi-final last week was a real nerve wracking game. Wigan led 14-0 at halftime and looked certain to win it, however, a great comeback from FC looked set to ruin the Warriors’ night. Wigan managed to do what they’ve done all season and win it late on after two tries through Powell and Gelling. They finally prevailed 28-18 winners and secured their spot in Saturdays Grand Final.

KEY BATTLES

Wigan have gone through the majority of this season being labelled “boring to watch”, while it is hard to disagree with that statement, in the last month, they have finally started to play some Rugby, and throw the ball around more. A lot of this has come down to the partnership of Matty Smith and George Williams. This half back pairing have had a real up and down sort of season, however, when it mattered the most, they have delivered their best performances on the pitch and really influenced the games. On the other side, with Chris Sandow returning to the initial 19-man squad, you have to assume that he will play. Therefore, young Declan Patton will be dropped, and Sandow will resume his partnership with Kurt Gidley in the halves. Now, Sandow has been out for the past month or so, and in the meant-time missed quite a few games. To return in such a big game, will be a huge test of his quality, it’ll be very interesting to see how he performs.

Stefan Ratchford and Dan Sarginson didn’t start the season off at full-back. but they sure look certain to finish it there. Both players have had to fill in this season because of injuries, and both have made a pretty good job of it. Both players have been moved around the side this season, and have proven to be influential and really reliable players over the course of the season. Ratchford has managed to score eight tries with 10 assists, while Sarginson has chipped in with four tries and 12 assists. Both players will be crucial, both in attack and defence, with both players needing to be fully on their game if they want to be lifting the trophy after 80 minutes.

The battle between the forwards will be massive in this game, and while it goes without saying, play a big part in who will win this Final. For Warrington Wolves, the clear standout is Chris Hill. I found it amazing that he wasn’t selected in the shortlist for Man of Steel this year. I think he’s been by far the best forward in Super League and Warrington’s most reliable and game changing player. While Sandow, Gidley and others takes all the credit, it’s players like Hill who make the important yards to get his side in those crucial positions. With forwards such as Ashton Sims, Jack Hughes and Joe Westerman, they’ll take some stopping. However, Wigan players like Dom Crosby, John Bateman, Willie Isa and Frank-Paul Nuuausala will be looking to make their mark and win that battle down the middle. It should be an intriguing battle, maybe the best of the game.

STATISTICS

PREVIOUS FINAL MEETINGS:

(Warrington won 1, Wigan won 10)

Super League Grand Final

2013 Warrington 16, Wigan 30 (at Old Trafford, Manchester)

Challenge Cup Final

1990 Warrington 14, Wigan 36 (at Wembley Stadium)

Championship Final

1926 Warrington 10, Wigan 22 (at Knowsley Road, St Helens)

Premiership Final

1987 Warrington 0, Wigan 8 (at Old Trafford, Manchester)

John Player Special/Regal Trophy

1995 Warrington 10, Wigan 40 (at McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield) (RT)

1987 Warrington 4, Wigan 18 (at Burnden Park, Bolton) (JPST)

Lancashire Cup

1987-88 Warrington 16, Wigan 28 (at Knowsley Road, St Helens)

1985-86 Warrington 8, Wigan 34 (at Knowsley Road, St Helens)

1980-81 Warrington 26, Wigan 10 (at Knowsley Road, St Helens)

1950-51 Warrington 5, Wigan 28 (at Station Road, Swinton)

1948-49 Warrington 8, Wigan 14 (at Station Road, Swinton)

LAST TEN MEETINGS:

Warrington 28, Wigan 35 (SLS8-R6, 16/9/16)

Warrington 40, Wigan 10 (SLR13, 28/4/16)

Wigan 16, Warrington 28 (SLR9, 1/4/16)

Warrington 0, Wigan 28 (SLS8-R3, 21/8/15)

Warrington 17, Wigan 6 (SLR20, 2/7/15)

Wigan 30, Warrington 20 (SLR11, 16/4/15)

Wigan 16, Warrington 12 (SLQSF, 3/10/14)

Wigan 24, Warrington 20 (SLR27, 11/9/14)

Warrington 4, Wigan 12 (SLR6, 20/3/14)

Warrington 16, Wigan 30 (SLGF, 5/10/13)

(at Old Trafford, Manchester)

SUPER LEAGUE SUMMARY:

Warrington won 19

Wigan won 31 (includes win in 2013 Grand Final & wins in 2003 and 2014 play-offs)

2 draws

Warrington highest score: 47-38 (H, 2001) (Widest margin: 40-10, H, 2016)

Wigan highest score: 58-4 (H, 2002) (also widest margin)

PREVIOUS PLAY-OFF MEETINGS:

Wigan 16, Warrington 12 (SLQSF, 3/10/14)

Warrington 16, Wigan 30 (SLGF, 5/10/13)

(at Old Trafford, Manchester)

Wigan 25, Warrington 12 (SLEPO, 27/9/03)

PRE-GAME MEDIA

MANAGERS:

Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith:

“To come to Old Trafford is not a dream come true but it is certainly something we work towards.

“I like to think we’re one of the best teams, if not the most consistent, and that is what the League Leaders’ Shield proves.

“But that doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the Grand Final and hopefully we can carry that attitude through for one more game.

“It is about producing now on the big stage, trying to put the event aside and playing your best rugby.”

Credit to BBC Sport: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/37550948

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“I’m very, very proud of what the young players are doing in our team.

“A lot of the players are Manchester United fans so they’re looking forward to trying to get this win and hopefully making history.

“I’ll be pumped walking the players out, I’m very proud to represent this club in our fourth year here.

“But I’ve only got one win under my belt so I don’t want to drive out of here with nothing on the coach and we need that Super League trophy.”

Credit to BBC Sport: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/37550948

PLAYERS:

Warrington prop Chris Hill:

“I think sometimes you have to go through the heartache to make you a better player.”

“It drives you on, doesn’t it? “You don’t want to feel like you did at the end of the Challenge Cup final. It’s motivation in itself. Others might have different motivation, but personally that’s one for me.

“I think the league leaders is under-estimated, it’s probably the hardest one to get. To be the most consistent side over 30 weeks is hard and so for us it was a great achievement but we want to go out with the big one on Saturday.

“I think leading the team out at Old Trafford will top Wembley, even though I had my eldest son with me at Wembley.

“I think it’s a different atmosphere, a bit more electric here, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

Credit to Wigan Today: http://www.wigantoday.net/sport/wigan-warriors/wiganer-hill-braced-for-abuse-from-own-family-1-8167737

Wigan centre Anthony Gelling:

“It would mean a lot to go back through Auckland airport with the ring on my finger.”

“And the group we’ve got, we deserve to win. “We’ve been consistently good since I’ve been here. You look at Saints, Warrington, even Leeds, they’ve all had a year off.

“But with all the injuries and new players we’ve still been up there, and we want the silverware to reflect that.”

Gelling has honoured a mid-season pledge not to cut his hair until the end of the season. And now he wants to keep his Rambo-style look… but he expects team-mates may have other ideas on the end-of-year celebrations.

“I’m superstitious, I don’t want to cut it now,” he said. “On Mad Monday, someone will have some physio scissors… I’ll be back to the wall the whole night!”

Credit to Wigan Today: http://www.wigantoday.net/sport/wigan-warriors/why-gelling-is-running-hot-1-8165969

PREDICTIONS

The stage is set for this game to be a real exciting, bone-crunching and nerve rattling Grand Final. It’s a tough one to call, both sides have their strenghts in which makes a good case of why they can win this game. It could go all the way to the last minute, it really could. Either way, I think we’re in for a dramatic Grand Final, one that will cap off a frantic Super League season.

Wigan Warriors by 2

SQUAD NEWS

Head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith names squad ahead of Saturday which sees Chris Sandow, Ryan Bailey and Brad Dwyer back in the mix. Star scrum-half Chris Sandow strained a knee ligament in August but after passing a fitness test this week is set to be available. One man who will return from injury is prop Ryan Bailey who has recoevered from a calf problem.

Wigan make just one change with Ben Flower returning to the squad following suspension and taking the place of Kyle Shelford. The Warriors will be without five regular players with Sam Tomkins, Dominic Manfredi, Tony Clubb, Joel Tomkins and Michael McIlorum all out injured.

19-MAN SQUADS

Warrington Wolves: Atkins, Bailey, Clark, Dwyer, Evans, Gidley, Hill, Hughes, G King, T King, Lineham, Patton, Philbin, Ratchford, Russell, Sandow, Sims, Westerman, Wilde.

Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bretherton, Charnley, Crosby, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Gildart, Isa, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Shorrocks, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Williams.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Robert Hicks

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester

Date/Time: Saturday 8th October 2016 – 18:00pm GMT