None of us expected it, and indeed a sizeable number of regular supporters had booked their holidays in the assumption that it would not be happening, but here we are on the cusp of our first ever Super League Grand Final. The one group, however, who have had their sights set on Old Trafford since the start of the season, has been the players, as co-captain, Mark Flanagan, confirms.
“I’ve always known that we have a pretty special squad here, this year, and known that we would be able to beat anyone on our day, but the level of consistency which we’ve shown over the last few months, by winning ten of our last eleven games, has surprised me a little,” said Flanagan.
“Beating teams when we were on song is one thing, but to keep backing it up week after week, has been a really pleasant surprise, but we’ve consequently earned the right to be in the Final, and really deserve to be there. We’re not going there just to make up the numbers; we’re going there to win.
“The fact that we nilled Cas, and then kept Wigan down to four points, is testament to our defence, thanks to our attitude and how hard we’re willing to work for one another. We are always ready to scramble and to cover, so that if someone slips up there’s always someone else nearby who is prepared to get stuck in and blot out that mistake.
“When you have a good basis of all that you are going to be in contention in any match, which coupled with our strong attack and some silky individual skills, puts us in a very competitive position.
“Saints are a quality outfit and they have been good all season, but we are not thinking about them, we are concentrating on ourselves because if we don’t play to our best we will struggle.
“Our league match at the Totally Wicked Stadium, earlier this year, shows that we have the potential to beat them, and, having spoken to former teammates there, they acknowledge the strengths within our squad, because that match was the closest they came to being beaten at home, all season.
“We will certainly take some confidence from that, which backed up with some video work during the week, will set us up well for the Final. These are the easiest games to prepare for because you need no motivating, whatsoever. The mood at Wednesday’s training session was brilliant; everyone was buzzing. These are not just the easiest games to prepare for, they are also the most enjoyable in which to play.
“On the day every player has to be focused on his job and use the roar of the crowd as fuel, particularly when you start to tire and need an extra bit of energy. Really it is important to keep it all as just another game, which just happens to be in front of the TV cameras and an extremely large crowd.
“In addition, if you are fully focused on your job, your brain switches off from all the other things around, which then seem to bypass you. We have ensured that we have kept everything the same as usual during the week, and we will be endeavouring to keep it as much the same as normal, on the day.”