It is an unbelievable feeling. It’s the pinnacle and you get a sense of that with the anticipation of it all during the week beforehand.
You get such a buzz and you have to make the most of these occasions. I do wish I could bottle that feeling when you walk out at Old Trafford.
I am always jealous every year when I see the teams walk out there as it takes me back to when I did it with Leeds.
Old Trafford is an amazing place. I was just saying the other day how it remains my favourite stadium and favourite atmosphere I ever played in: the Grand Final at Manchester.
I’ve experienced both outcomes. In my first year with Leeds I reached the Grand Final and Challenge Cup and lost both.
For me, it was a good year, though, as those are the games I joined Leeds for – cup finals – although of course it was disappointing on each night.
We did it in 2007 and 2008, though, and now it’s the turn of Wigan and Warrington on Saturday.
I was on the edge of my seat for the Warrington v Saints semi and it was similar to what we said about the NRL Grand Final and how important defences are.
Our two semi-finals proved the same; Warrington’s defence was really, really good. They stemmed the free-flowing Saints we’ve seen, they did a great job on Ben Barba and Jonny Lomax and all their threats, while the fact Castleford got nilled just showed how dominant Wigan were.
It’s the old saying: defence wins you competitions. We’ve seen that with the play-off system. It’s not over a period of time, it’s over a one-off game and in these semis defence has come out on top. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s the same this weekend.
The most disappointing thing for Cas fans will be that they probably hoped to have learned from last year’s Grand Final loss. You learn as much from a defeat as you do a win. You’d think they’d have more of an edge because of that, but Wigan’s dominance really shone through.
That’s just how Wigan have been playing of late.
I’m sure Cas will learn from it but – as we’ve found out at Hull this year – those sort of opportunities don’t always come around again. You must take them when you get them.
But the way Wigan are playing, especially in recent weeks, they just have that Grand Final-winning mentality for me.
There’s a bit of emotion and sentiment in there with a few players leaving like John Bateman and Sam Tomkins, not to mention the coach himself Shaun Wane. Their performance will have a big impact on how Wigan play as well and I do think they will win.
Yet Warrington were impressive the other night. Yes, they’ll have to be better with the ball, they’ll know that.
But they haven’t ever won a Grand Final. They’ve not won the league for more than 60 years and they’ll be hurting from losing the Challenge Cup final, too. So there’s plenty of things driving them on.
So will it be experience – Wigan – or a new name on the trophy in Warrington?
I have to go for Wigan.