One – England’s runners and riders
Two days to go until Steve McNamara announces the 24 men he will trust to win the World Cup for England and there are worries all over the place. Gareth Ellis has already retired, Jack Reed is ruled out, Kallum Watkins looked like he could hardly walk at the end of Friday’s match and Brett Ferres didn’t finish Thursday’s game against Warrington.
But if Watkins is struggling and Reed’s already gone, England’s centres suddenly look worryingly weak. You can see the Aussies stacking up their backline, dummy runners all over the place and passes so crisp even Gary Lineker would be proud, and it’s hard not to wince.
Two – Wigan walking to a rugby wonderland
Two half-backs that plenty were unsure about, a handful of key senior players gone and two semi-final defeats in 2012. That was the situation facing Shaun Wane at the turn of the year, but credit must go to him and everyone at Wigan for blooding a number of kids, winning at Wembley and now putting themselves just 80 minutes away from a rare domestic double.
It has been a brilliant year for the Warriors and could yet get even better, despite Sam Tomkins‘ imminent departure.
Wane was quick to point to a change to the team’s workload. “This year I’ve tried to rest players and we’ve approached training sessions towards the back end of the year in a different manner,” he said.
“I learned a few lessons from last year, to be honest. We’ve looked after the players a bit more. I flogged them last year and it’s lesson learned.”
Three – Brotherly love
What a night for Simon and Scott Grix on Thursday. Simon tasted ultimate elation, scoring two tries – including the match winner – as Warringon booked their place at Old Trafford.
In contrast, a groin injury left Scott kicking stones on the sideline.
In a year where Warrington have again impressed, Grix’s contribution cannot be underestimated. Tony Smith has used him in just about every position possible and he is the type of unheralded grafter every Grand Final winning team has.
Grix later admitted the Wolves were like “rabbits in headlights” at Old Trafford last year; don’t expect a repeat on Saturday. Wigan will still have it all on if they want to walk away with the winners’ rings.
Four – Jamie Peacock, the ultimate warrior?
This correspondent still expects Danny Brough to win Man of Steel on Monday, but Peacock’s staggering effort against Wigan was incredible to watch.
Time after time he defied age, logic and a body surely screaming with pain to volunteer for another drive into a Wigan defence seemingly enjoying every second of the carnage it was causing.
If any individual performance ever deserved a Grand Final, it was Peacock’s.
Still, he’s already had 10 of them. Mustn’t be greedy.
Five – QLT OMG
It’s no wonder Warrington were said to be sniffing around when he comes up with plays like that in the season’s biggest game.
Congratulations to all at the Eagles, who have now established themselves – on the pitch at least – as the game’s major force outside Super League.
A mention also for Rochdale, who have coped with plenty of off-field trauma this year but bounced back to secure their first trophy in 91 years and with it promotion to the sport’s second tier. Both clubs deserve all their success.