MAN-OF THE MATCH Brad Singleton admitted his delight at powering Leeds Rhinos to yet another Grand Final was tempered by the sight of luckless team-mate Stevie Ward being injured again.
Prop Singleton was immense as Leeds defeated Hull FC in Friday’s 18-16 semi-final win to set up Saturday’s Old Trafford showpiece with Castleford Tigers.
But second-row Ward departed late on with a dislocated shoulder that is expected to sideline him at the weekend – only two years after he missed Leeds’s previous Grand Final win having ruptured knee ligaments just two weeks before.
Singleton did play in the title-clinching win over Wigan Warriors, but also suffered through the disappointment of last year when Leeds diced with relegation and endured the ignominy of the Qualifiers.
“From the depths of last year – and the ridicule – it is emotional,” said the Cumbrian, who had two efforts disallowed against Hull and caused them constant problems with his strong carrying.
“It is big for this group – there are certain individuals who got dragged through it – but my thoughts are with Stevie Ward.He is a very unlucky fella and he is an absolute warrior.
“He performs every week and we wouldn’t be where we are without him.
“I am hoping for a miracle and he can get out there. My thoughts are with him.”
Ward is in England contention, too, for the World Cup so the injury has a double impact on the impressive 23-year-old.
Meanwhile, Leeds, who finished second, but 10 points behind leaders Castleford, know they will have to improve again if they are to lift an eighth Super League title in 14 years.
Their West Yorkshire rivals have beaten them in each of their last eight meetings including all four games this term.
However, Singleton believes Rhinos can arrest that slide when it matters most.
“We are a confident bunch,” he said.
“Every time we have played them we’ve given them a five or six out of 10 game.
“What we need to do is give them a nine or 10 out of 10 game – right across the board from the word go – and we have to respect the ball.
“I don’t think that has ever been done against them by us,” he added.
For those who point at Castleford’s lack of experience at Old Trafford – ex-Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker is the only player in their ranks to win a Grand Final and this is their first such appearance as a club – Singleton is wary.
“It is just a patch of grass,” he said.
“The game is absolutely massive; it is a big occasion for every fan and it’s great to have that many people there.
“But at the end of the day it is 13 blokes against 13 on a patch of grass and we’ve got to get the better of them.
“We’ve finished second in the league and now we’re at Old Trafford, but the job is not done. We have got a bigger job ahead of us and we are all aware of that,” he added.