IT’S Rugby League’s showpiece occasion on Saturday. Kaine Greenwood (@kaineg23) can’t wait! Here, he picks out his best bets.
Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors | Saturday 18:00 | Sky Sports 1
Super League XXI comes to a head under the Old Trafford lights on Saturday. All that has gone before matters only if you were in charge of the RFL’s competition slogan “Every Minute Matters”.
The two ‘super’ sides left standing remain so for just 80 more ticks of the clock; before one is crowned champions and the other falls – no doubt with little more than a consoling pat on the back from Rugby League’s appointed poster boy: Sir Bradley Wiggins. Who, of course, has no idea what it is like to lose!
Warrington are slight favourites for this clash (which won’t please Wigan-supporting Wiggins) primarily after taking the League Leaders’ Shield on the very last weekend and also contesting the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup right to the bitter end.
In completing such a treble of appearances across the season here it is not unreasonable to have them as such but I think Wigan possess the toughest ask of their skills out of all those they could’ve faced, making this very tough to call as a contest. Something further illustrated by the lack of either side getting a handicap start and so that is not my main focus for the WLB stable.
There are a number of players on either side, however, that provide interest in this match and for a host of reasons. Kurt Gidley has been instrumental in the turnaround of Warrington from a side that was eight points shy of competing in semi-finals last year to finalists once again here. On a similar note Chris Sandow has been perhaps the form player of the competition when fit.
Meanwhile, on Wigan’s side, Anthony Gelling has been a revelation for a resurgent Warriors side, producing the Rambo-like performances his appearance suggests for fun in the run-up to this occasion.
With so much talent all over the field there are a number of ways you could go and although defence is likely to be the watch word for both coaches pre-match in not trying to give the opposition opportunity for points I think one of the areas we can get interested in is with a tryscorer.
Ryan Atkins is the Wolves’ leading four-point provider heading into the Grand Final after a season-ending injury to Ben Currie and, despite the fact he hasn’t crossed in the previous seven games, he is the fifth-highest tryscorer across the whole of 2016. At 23/10 Atkins can’t be ignored when you consider he has also dotted-down 12 points against the Warriors themselves.
The Man of the Match market always intrigues on nights like this as well. The names mentioned above are all solid candidates over the 80 but my preference is for a forward in this particular tie.
The fact that a forward hasn’t won the award since Chris Joynt in 2000 is always a concern when looking to favour a player in such a position but it is the way I see this game going.
John Bateman has attributes that take him all over the park, with the match likely to be won in the forwards battle he represents very good value, but should he pop up in the right spot in the attacking line and add to his 10 tries we could be laughing at 16/1 with Betway.
Bateman was in fine form before an internal team discipline issue saw him sit out two months of the campaign. Since his return against St. Helens in Round 23 he has helped push this Wigan side even further and in the 10 outings since his reintroduction he has contributed by producing four man-of-the-match displays for his side as judged by weekly rugby league journalists.
He also produced for us earlier in the year and it’s all about staying loyal with consistency on this one – we know what we’re going to get from the 23-year-old and I’d say it’s a lot more than the 16s on offer suggests!
Now… who is doing the half-time show? Enjoy everyone, not even Feeder will ruin this one.