Jamie Peacock admits Leeds Rhinos are not the best team in Super League but it will not prevent them from lifting the title again this evening.
No one knows more about Grand Final triumphs than the totemic prop who has more winners’ rings – he is aiming for his seventh tonight – than any other player in the game.
Having featured in all three Leeds successes against St Helens between 2007 and 2009, the England forward also savoured victories with Bradford Bulls in 2001, 2003 and 2005.
It was that last one with Bradford which is most historic given it was the only time a team came from third to win the trophy.
Leeds will bid to emulate that this evening by doing so from fifth and Peacock admits he sees similarities between the two sides.
“We actually weren’t the best team in 2005,” he recollects, St Helens having finished first, 10 points above them.
“But we went on because we were tighter and had a bit more belief than everyone. It’s a bit like this Leeds team at the moment.”
Table-topping Warrington finished 13 points in front of Leeds this season but had no answer to their sheer determination and courage last Friday as Rhinos delivered their finest performance of the year to set up another Grand Final appearance.
“We were fortunate in 2005,” added Peacock.
“We’d played Saints to get to Old Trafford when they had just lost Lee Gilmour and Sean Long plus two or three more to injuries whereas we played a Warrington team at full strength.
“To beat them was immense and probably a little better than what we did to get to the final with Bradford.
“However, to win it is a different thing altogether.”
It would take a fool to write off Leeds now, though, after they made a mockery of the odds to defeat Warrington and set up a fourth Grand Final with Saints in just five years.
They may have lost both times they have met this season but the West Yorkshire club are now operating at a completely different level.
“We’re playing a lot better than times before,” said Peacock.
“We matched them at their home ground for 50 minutes and then got blown away but we’re vastly improved.
“So are Saints but we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we can do.
“We’ve got momentum, a lot of lads are confident and in form, and that‘s a big thing.”
As is the fact Leeds have won their last three finals against Saints.
“It is a plus, that association with playing here with Leeds and winning, and that’s going to be key for us having that mentality.
“But it is a different side we’re playing with a different coach – Royce Simmons – who has them playing a different brand of football just as Brian McDermott has with us so it’s all in the past.”
Peacock, 33, believes the fact that Saints have also risen from third to reach the final says plenty about the improving standard of Super League.
It is the first time in its 14 years that neither of the top two – in this case Warrington and Wigan – have made the final.
“It’s probably taken that long to get the right amount of quality in Super League where a team finishing fifth, as we have, can beat the team that finished top,” he said.
“It’s simply never been the case before now and I think it will give teams belief now they can achieve that.”
Peacock added: “I think the problem with a lot is they set goals to get into the play-offs and then when they get there they’ve nowhere else to go then as a team.
“If they set out as a goal to actually win it rather than get in the play-offs you’d see more of this happen.”
Peacock’s own desire to battle it out at Old Trafford again has not diminished because of his familiarity with the place. Along with Saints’ Paul Wellens, he will join former Bradford team-mate Leon Pryce in making a record ninth appearance this evening.
“This is exciting,” he said. “I missed out in 2006 and to get back in 2007 you realise just how special this place is and it’s the same again this year; I missed out last time as we didn’t quite get there, just falling away, but it’s great to be there again.
“Perhaps when you are there year after year you don’t realise how important it all is.
“Leon’s got nine and if I’d got picked in ’99 (Bradford v Saints) we’d have been even now.
“Looking back, though, I’m glad I didn’t get picked for that final; it spurred me on to better things.”
Peacock, who has rediscovered his best form in the latter stages of the season, is delighted that McDermott has led the side to a Grand Final during his first year in charge at Headingley.
The pair were team-mates at Bradford, prop McDermott being one of Peacock’s biggest influences, and he said he has not changed much since. “We were together in 2001 when we won the Grand Final with a good victory and again in the 2002 final which were great days,” he recollected.
“Mac’s only slightly different now probably a little less – crazy’s not the word –- just a bit more grown up.
“He’s always the same personality – a funny but honest guy, strict disciplinarian, all qualities you need as a coach.
“He’s shown us them throughout the year.
“A lot of that Bradford side have become coaches – Brian, Steve (McNamara), Jimmy (Lowes) and Paul Anderson are just four of them and Mac was a real leader which probably came from his Marines background.”
When it comes to current leaders, they do not come much better than Peacock, whose mountainous efforts have rallied Leeds.
If he can deliver another of his commanding performances up front tonight, against the might of James Graham and Tony Puletua, that remarkable feat he achieved as Bradford captain in 2005 may just be surpassed.