As Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons prepare to meet in the Super League Grand Final, it is clear that the man of the hour is Sam Tomkins.
A legend of the Wigan club, Tomkins is set to retire after tonight’s game.
Thus, he is striving to bow out a Super League Champion at the expense of his home town club.
He has laid down the gauntlet with some bold comments on Sky Sports:
“Wigan have that knack of getting dominant early in the game but that’s also one of our strengths. I think we’ve got stronger forwards than they do, if our forwards play well and start the game well then I think we’ll be in front and can get some points. I think the packs going to decide this in the first twenty.”
Wigan are chasing Super League title number six in their 12th Grand Final.
Catalans Dragons are becoming only the sixth team to reach Old Trafford twice or more after Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves, Bradford Bulls, St Helens and of course their opponents tonight.
They are also aiming to become only the fifth team to be crowned Super League Champions and the first new name to pick up the Super League trophy since Leeds Rhinos defeated Bradford Bulls in 2004 with a 16-8 win.
That day was about new beginnings but today’s Grand Final feels like it is about endings as Sam Tomkins and Mitchell Pearce look to end their careers as Super League Champions.
Tomkins is up against the side where he made his name and starts at fullback with the team news now in.
Mitchell Pearce starts at seven whilst Wigan bound Adam Keighran will face off against his future club at centre.
The man he will be replacing, Warrington loanee Toby King, also starts at centre. As expected, Matt Peet sticks with Jai Field at fullback and Bevan French at stand-off alongside Harry Smith.
But the big call was always going to centre around Ethan Havard. The prop picked up a hamstring injury against Wakefield Trinity in July and has missed every game since but was a shock inclusion in the squad for the Grand Final with Cade Cust the player dropping out in the only change for the 21 squad going into the Grand Final.
Peet has chosen to risk Havard and he starts on the bench.
Joe Shorrocks is the 18th man meaning his hopes of playing in a Grand Final aren’t over.