Jon Wilkin highlights Wigan Warriors ace as his favourite Grand Final storyline as Sky Sports pundit predicts full-time score

Ross Heppenstall
Jon Wilkin Sky Sports Alamy

Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin - Alamy

Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin has been busy preparing for Saturday’s Grand Final and has his fingers in a few pies, almost literally, with punditry just one of his regular gigs.

The former St Helens title winner also runs a coffee shop and a bakery – and Saturday’s title decider has seen him rushed off his feet.

“My bakery has a contract with Manchester United and I’ve got two vans delivering 220 loaves to Old Trafford on Grand Final day, so this is a good week for me!” Wilkin told Love Rugby League.

“As for the Grand Final itself, there are loads of great stories surrounding the game.

“Take Matt Peet’s development as a coach, Sam Tomkins’ last-ever game, plus Steve McNamara and the Catalans story in general with how far they have come.”

Here, Wilkin gives his most intriguing sub-plot surrounding the fixture and gives his prediction for the title decider.

Jon Wilkin’s favourite storyline – Ethan Havard

Ethan Havard Wigan Warriors Alamy Wigan Warriors prop Ethan Havard – Alamy

Havard has not played since July 7 due to a hamstring injury – but looks certain to feature at Old Trafford.

That is potentially massive for Wigan and he could be an unlikely star of this Grand Final.

If Wigan need anything, it’s a ferocious, physical attitude up front and I think Ethan coming back from injury could work really well for Matty Peet.

If he could produce a performance like he did in the Challenge Cup against Warrington, then that’s huge for Wigan.

Havard single-handedly dismantled Sam Kasiano, Paul Vaughan and Daryl Clark in one of the best displays from a front-rower that I’ve ever seen.

Playing Ethan is a risk because if he pulls his hamstring two minutes into the game, then Wigan are left with egg on their face.

But I went to watch Wigan train this week and I saw Havard in the gym.

I said ‘are you just getting ready for next year?’ and he replied ‘no, man, I’m getting ready to play in the Grand Final’.

It’s a big story and Ethan had a glint in his eye, as did the Wigan squad in general.

Jon Wilkin makes Grand Final full-time prediction

A big plus for Catalans this season has been how they have defended.

In the play-off semi-final against St Helens, they defended their way to a win.

Saints, try as they might, could hardly put a shot on them and the Dragons got through because of how they defended, not because of how they attacked.

We talk about the attacking talent they possess, but the difference between the Catalans of old and this Dragons side is that they have got enough people who want to defend.

That comes from lads like Matt Whitley, Mike McMeeken and Micky Mac (McIlorum) in the middle and is a big reason why Catalans are so good now.

The kicking game is also important and if it’s raining at Old Trafford that will sharpen the mind.

I know that from personal experience when Kevin Sinfield kicked us to death in so many Grand Finals for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens.

The kicking game of people like Harry Smith, Mitchell Pearce and Sam Tomkins will be vital.

And could it even come down to goal-kicking? 

The thing with Wigan is that they are so chilled because Matty Peet has got this way of keeping his men calm.

If he was coaching me, I’d be incredibly relaxed and I think that clarity and calmness could be the secret weapon for Wigan.

It’s going to be one of those games where you can see Bevan French making a half-break, Abbas Miski scores in the corner for his 28th try of the season, and Wigan win it 8-6. That’s my prediction.

Watch the Betfred Super League Grand Final exclusively live on Sky Sports Main Event and NOW from 5pm Saturday October 14th, and Betfred Super League Wheelchair Final on Sky Sports Arena and NOW from 5pm Sunday October 15th.

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