Well what should have been a quiet week leading up to the Grand Final exploded into life with the news that Zak Hardaker has been left out of the Tigers squad by Daryl Powell due to a breach of club discipline.
How Cas must wish the Grand Final was a few weeks ago when they were flying.
First there was the news that Luke Gale had to have his appendix removed, surely he still can’t be fully fit, and then they field a weakened team to get well beaten by Hull.
This was an error by Powell as at this stage of the season in my opinion. Teams need to be in a rhythm, they nearly paid the price last week with a fortunate win over an average Saints side.
Then today’s bombshell about key man Hardaker, the odds for a Tigers win have drifted to around 4/6 from 4/7. I’m not sure even Gale being out would have had such an impact on the odds.
Contrast this to the Rhinos who’ve been slipping under the radar, going about their business quietly but efficiently over the last few weeks.
The Hardaker news has seen their odds come in from around 15/8 to around 6/4 to win at the Theatre of Dreams.
In fact instead of talking about Hardaker, we should be talking about Stevie Ward who is in the Leeds squad despite dislocating his shoulder only last Friday against Hull.
The loss to Castleford in the Super 8s is Leeds only reverse in their last 6 as they refused to take their foot off the gas.
Having won all 3 games between the sides this year, Cas should feel confident of claiming the title on Saturday but I’m not so sure.
Under Brian Mac, Leeds have made a habit of being able to raise it for the big games. In 2012 Wigan put 50 points on them at Headingley and only 6 weeks later Leeds knocked the Warriors out of the Cup, going on later that year to knock Wigan out of the Play-offs too.
The Rhinos record at Old Trafford is formidable, they have won their last 6 and haven’t lost at the Theatre of Dreams since 2005.
I have fancied Leeds for the Grand Final for a while now, and nothing that’s happened over the last few weeks has changed my mind.
Leeds were the better side of the two last week and whilst for me Cas are the true Champions for the entertainment they’ve given us this season the rules say otherwise.
It would be nice to see a new name on the trophy as only three clubs have won here since 2005 , and the Rhinos can win this by the minimum 1 to 5 points in a tight game.
The value for me would be Leeds to win by 1 to 12 points at around 5/2.
Hardaker will be a big miss, he’s the best defensive full-back in the league and he’s key in attack with his runs into the line.
He would be Man of Steel for me and is more important than Gale, who had surgery only 3 weeks ago and had a very tough game last week.
They conceded 5 tries against Saints, only scoring 3, and would be on holiday now if Marc Percival had his kicking boots on.
Cas may take a lot from last week and have a great record against the Rhinos, but I just think Leeds and McDermott in particular know what is required in a Grand Final.
If you disagree with me I’d take the 4/6 with Stan James on the Tigers lifting the trophy as apposed to the match win odds in case of extra time.
The Rhinos get a 4.5 point start on the handicap with marathon, and at even money this is better value than the 6/4 match win odds if Cas win by 4 points you’ll still be on a winner.
Leeds were getting a 6 point start prior to today’s news.
Tigers backers can get 11/10 with Paddy Power that they win by more than 4 points.
On the Half Time Full Time, Cas are a best priced 11/10 with the Rhinos 3/1.
In what should be a tight game I like the 11/2 with Betfair that the game is tied at EITHER half time or full time.
Teams are always likely to put points on the board in a big game and a penalty 1st scoring play is around 5/2.
You may have to back both teams scoring a penalty to half your stake.
Greg Eden heads first try market at 7/1, but he may now have to play at full-back, Greg Minikin and Jy Hitchcox are around 10/1 but I’d prefer Jake Webster at around 14’s.
Ryan Hall is hard to ignore in Leeds colours, he’s a proven big game performer and would be my pick at 12/1.
Finally the man of the match, Harry Sunderland trophy, which is picked by the press men.
No surprise to see Gale a very short 3/1 favourite but he is impossible to ignore. Halves have won 4 of the last 7 as predictably the hacks go for the headline grabbers instead of the forwards who do all the work.
Other candidates in Tigers colours have to be Paul McShane at 16/1 and Ben Roberts at 12/1 but it has to be Gale, unfortunately at low odds.
Parcell has been the signing of the season for me and is the clear pick in Rhinos colours at 10/1.
St Helens best player James Roby got the award in 2014 and Parcell is the best player by a mile in this Rhinos side.
Other candidates include Moon at 12/1 and a tempting 33/1 for Cuthbertson, who’s been back to his best this year, but it’s Gale and Parcell for me.
Enjoy what should be a tremendous occasion and please look out for our betting reviews for the World Cup which starts at the end of the month.
As always please gamble responsibly.