St Helens coach Kristian Woolf wants to send Zeb Taia out on a high

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf is aiming to ensure the contribution of Zeb Taia is not overshadowed by that of James Graham when the pair hang up their boots on Friday.

Graham is fighting a fitness battle to play in Friday’s Super League Grand Final against Wigan at the KCOM Stadium after sustaining a head knock in the early stages of his side’s 48-2 semi-final win over Catalans Dragons.

The former England and Great Britain prop, who is in his second spell with St Helens, needs to pass a series of head tests in order to get the chance to bring the curtain down on his glorious career on the big stage.

Also heading for retirement is the 36-year-old Taia, who is taking his family back to Australia after spending the last four years in England.

“Zeb’s got one more game for the club and he retires, the same as James Graham,” Woolf said.

“James has rightfully swamped that a bit in terms of the attention he’s received and he deserves every accolade he gets but Zeb Taia has been a good player for this club for a long time.

“I thought he was outstanding tonight, he really showed his class there and it would be great to send him off in a positive way as well.”

Taia played for Parramatta and Newcastle Knights before moving to Super League in 2013 with Catalans Dragons and had a spell back in the NRL with Gold Coast Titans before joining Saints in 2017.

He was a try scorer in their Grand Final win over Salford at Old Trafford last year and will be hoping to make his mark in Hull.

Woolf admits pitting his side with their traditional rivals is a fitting way to end a difficult year for rugby league.

“There’s obviously a big rivalry there,” said Woolf, who has taken St Helens back to the Grand Final in his first season at the club.

“Playing a Grand Final, it’s a massive occasion and the history of the two clubs adds to it.

“I think it’s really fitting as well, these have been the two best teams for the whole season.

“They were certainly strong in their semi-final and they’ve been really strong all year. We’re the same so it’s going to be a great final.”

Wigan will have gained a psychological advantage from their 18-6 win over St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium last month but Woolf says his side will also draw encouragement from that match.

“We certainly learned plenty from that game,” he said. “It came at a good time for us.

“It gave us a little bit of a reality check in terms of where we were and also it was the toughest game we’d had for a long period of time.

“I think sometimes you always need a bit of a loss towards the back end of the year to make sure you’re at your best for the big games.”

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