“Gritty not pretty” the key to Wigan’s Grand Final hopes

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

Thomas Leuluai has told his Wigan team-mates they will need to be gritty not pretty if they are to beat bitter rivals St Helens and reach the Betfred Super League Grand Final.

Wigan stand on the brink of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Super League history having been in relegation trouble earlier in the season to now standing on the cusp of defending the title they won 12 months ago.

But first they must overcome their fiercest rivals in St Helens if they are to reach Old Trafford, host of the biggest night in Super League for the past 21 years.

And Leuluai – a veteran in this young Wigan team – says his side must work hard and show the desire to win – just as they did in their 18-12 Qualifier win over Salford.

Leuluai said: “After the Salford game I described the performance as gritty but not pretty and it will definitely need to be the same on Friday.

“That is how big games are won. Not flashy plays or set pieces, it is down to desire. That is why it was such a good game for us to play because when it came to it we were able to dig deep and show that we could work hard.

“Maybe we had to work harder than we wanted to at some points, but it was good to know that we could do it.

“From my time here we have always had a tough underbelly. It is something we work on. We have players who are good in these situations.”

For Wigan even to be in this position is quite remarkable given their start to the season. Four defeats from their first six games had them battling relegation rather than thinking about back-to-back Grand Finals.

Hard work and trust in younger players dug them out of that predicament and saw them go on a run to finish second in the table at the end of the season.

One of those players who has emerged with credit this season is 18-year-old second row Morgan Smithies.

Smithies made 72 tackles in their clash with Salford Red Devils – a Super League record – and won the admiration of teammates and opponents alike.

And Leuluai could not be more impressed with the teen starlet.

He said: “I will get nowhere near those 72 tackles. He only played 68 minutes, so who knows what he would have done if he played the full 80.

“We are lucky to have players like that. I didn’t really know who he was at the beginning of the season because he didn’t train with us through the off season and he was chucked in. But you could see the class straight away. We are lucky to have players like that.”

New Zealander Leuluai has won two Super League titles with Wigan and says this season would be extra special given the tough start to the season.

He added: “Because of where we have come from it will mean a lot to see if we can go all the way this season.”

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