Paul Wellens knows a thing or two about winning Super League Grand Finals, but this time around, he will be watching from the side-lines as his beloved St Helens look to break the curse that has plagued them since his retirement.
One of the team’s all-time greats, the 39-year-old hung up his boots in 2015 to join the coaching staff, currently serving as the assistant to Justin Holbrook as the Saints search for their first title since 2014.
A final that he recalls with great fondness, The Red V downed fierce rivals Wigan Warriors in what could-well prove an eerie portent for this year’s showpiece.
After a regular season in which Saints blitzed the rest of their competition, finishing 16 points clear at the top of the Super League standings, they await to find out whether it will be the Warriors or the Salford Red Devils who are to stand in the way of a return to glory.
And while Wellens is allowing himself to look back with fondness to 2014, he hopes that the current crop of players can use that triumph as motivation this time around.
“I was the captain of the team, captained of my home-town club to a Grand Final success,” he said.
“Also, it came after a run of Grand Final defeats, which was tough to take at the time, so there was a mixture of emotions – joy and relief.
“It’s something that, now I’ve finished playing, I look back on with real fond memories; it was a real special time in my career.
“When you’re at a club like this you start every season wanting to be successful. We set ourselves high standards, and I’ve grown up as a Saints fan expecting that myself.
“We want to be successful at this club, and that’s being in a position to finish as champions, so in some senses it would be a disappointment (to lose in the final).
“We have achieved some amazing things this season, and now find ourselves in a Grand Final.
“There’s certainly a lot of teams that would consider what we have achieved so far a huge success, but would we like to go that one step further and win the competition? Absolutely.”
Wigan take on the Red Devils at the DW Stadium on Friday night for the right to face Saints at the Old Trafford showpiece on 12 October.
And, casting his mind back once more over teams of yesteryear, Wellens believes that this year’s vintage could rank right up there with the best he has known if they are to be crowned champions on that Saturday evening in a fortnight’s time.
“It’s a fantastic rugby side. We get an opportunity to be crowned champions, and this group certainly deserve to, but that said they’ve got to make it happen.
“I think it would round off a phenomenal season for a special group of players. I’ve been at this club for a long time and played in some very special teams, but this team are right up there with the best of them.”
The Betfred Super League Grand Final is the biggest night in Super League and takes place at Old Trafford, the iconic home of Manchester United on Saturday 12 October (6pm KO). Secure your seat by visiting https://www.superleague.co.uk/tickets/grand-final