Catalans Dragons v St Helens in the Super League Grand Final - Who am I tipping and why? - Gareth Ellis

IT should be a great Betfred Super League Grand Final on Saturday as we have the two top sides and I am also pleased to see Catalans Dragons arrive at Old Trafford for the first time.

When you think back through Super League’s history and expansion experiments, or attempts right back to the start with Paris St Germain and then London being in and out, Celtic Crusaders and, more latterly, Toronto Wolfpack, while they have failed in establishing themselves as Super League teams, Catalans is obviously a resounding success.

They have been around a while now, being founded in 2000 and then starting in Super League six years later.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They have been consistent at what they have done. They have signed very strongly over the years – with people like StaceyJones and Greg Bird – but never been able to get themselves to that next level that they have sometimes promised before a ball was kicked.

A lot of that credit has to go down to Steve McNamara, their head coach, and the way he has allowed them to evolve.

Perpignan is not just about being a lovely place to come and live and an experience rather than a place to go and play and achieve things.

It’s getting that balance right and, as far as I can see, Steve has instilled that culture in the last few years. It’s led to the Challenge Cup success, then the Barcelona Nou Camp game and now a Grand Final.

A massive pat on the back, then, to everyone who has been involved in their history and particularly the ones in more recent times.

Catalans Dragons' James Maloney (Picture: SWpix.com)

It’s fully deserved over the course of the year; finishing top of the ladder means that consistency level has gone up another level, and we’re now seeing them play at Old Trafford in a Grand Final.

They have eventually got there this year and deservedly so.

I imagine it’s quite an attractive proposition, the prospect of playing for Catalans and living in the south of France.

I look back over my career and I think that is one thing I’d have liked to have done if things had worked out differently one way or another.

St Helens's Lachlan Coote has a guard of honour and congratulated by Alex Walmsley at the tunnel after his last home match for St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium.(Picture: SWPix.com)

When I think of the experiences I have had from rugby league, playing for Catalans Dragons and living in the south of France would have been something I’d have enjoyed doing.

It wasn’t to be but I can imagine how attractive it is. And that can make things difficult.

It’s something I think the Gold Coast Titans struggle with in Australia.

It’s such a great place to live in terms of your life, it’s not always conducive to being a professional athlete.

Sam Kasiano of Dragons Catalans celebrates victory over Hull KR (Picture: Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com)

For me, it was a great experience living in Australia but rugby was always at the forefront of whatever I did.

In terms of recruitment for Catalans, it does attract people but it’s then up to them to pick and choose and vet the people who are coming and make sure they come for the right reasons, which is to play rugby.

They seem to have got that balance right now.

The signing of James Maloney, pictured, has been pivotal to that.

I’m sure he likes a good time but in terms of what he produces on the field and the influence he has on those other 16 players on game day is phenomenal.

Sometimes he doesn’t look to be that involved but you can see him barking orders and he must be a coach’s dream in terms of delivering a gameplan; you can tell everything he does is geared towards delivering that gameplan and that is a big part of Catalans’ success this year.

Saints and Catalans are the two best teams over the course of the season and were definitely the two best teams in the semi-finals.

Both Leeds and Hull KR had to be absolutely on fire to cause an upset in the last four last week and it would have been if either had won.

Both probably just misfired a little bit and, to be fair, the other two were pretty good.

Leeds and KR both scoring tries just before half-time meant they gave themselves a fighting chance but both Catalans and Saints just showed their superiority in the end. And it came through in those semis.

Saints were pretty dominant; even if Leeds had been good I’m not sure they’d have had quite enough to overturn Saints.

Nevertheless, Saturday is going to be a mouthwatering game: the two best teams coming together in the final.

Saints are probably up there with the top teams in Super League history and, at the opposite end of the scale, we have a club in Catalans that has never played a Grand Final and only recently played their first Challenge Cup showpiece.

It is going to be a big night and I’m sure it is going to be one to really make sure everyone tunes into.

The history of them playing in big games makes me think Saints just have an intensity about them that is made for Grand Final rugby; it’s relentless.

It’s for 80 minutes and that experience of playing at Old Trafford recently will bode well for them.

That said, if Catalans can fire and deliver that gameplan around Maloney and Sam Tomkins, the Steve Prescott Man of Steel nominee who I’d pretty much guarantee will be back in the mix, then they could do it.

Both are real competitors as well as great players and that could possibly provide the edge if it all falls into place and clicks into gear for Catalans.

But, predicting a result, I can’t look past St Helens.

Hopefully it will be a classic final and there is enough players of star quality available to both to help make that happen.