No two teams will have played in more Grand Finals than St Helens and Leeds Rhinos come Saturday night.
The occasion will mark St Helens’ record 14th Grand Final appearance and Leeds’ 11th as they both go in search of a ninth win on the biggest stage of all.
Only five of the 24 previous Grand Finals, and 25 including Saturday, will have featured neither side meanwhile this is a record fifth meeting between the two.
Remarkably all of the previous four have gone the way of the Rhinos making Leeds the only team St Helens have faced in a Grand Final and not beaten.
In 2007, Leeds ended St Helens’ unbeaten Grand Final record in some fashion with a 33-6 win. In 2008 and 2009 it was much closer as the two teams battled it out with Leeds winning three Grand Finals in a row at the expense of Saints thanks to two eight-point wins. It is this record for consecutive titles Saints are striving to topple on Saturday.
In 2011 came the most recent meeting between the two as Leeds battled back from 16-8 down with 17 minutes left to win 32-16 on a night where Rob Burrow showed his class.
11 years later only three players remain in the Saints side who have tasted defeat to Leeds at Old Trafford in James Roby (who featured in all four defeats), Jonny Lomax and Tommy Makinson (who both played in 2011).
However, the squad is seemingly being galvanised by the history of this meeting with Jack Welsby revealing last night at the Man of Steel awards that Roby and assistant coach Paul Wellens had a lot to say about the history between the two: “I suppose it’s a new opponent, it’s always something to focus on. Leeds have been outstanding at the back end of the year.
“We’ve had a similar test last week against Salford so it’s going to be tough. The history between the two clubs, Roby and Wellens has had a lot to say about that recently.
“Obviously Leeds had their number. We’ve not met for a good couple of years and it’s a different team now and Leeds have a new group.
“It’s rekindling an old rivalry and the story is ready to go.”
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) September 21, 2022
Welsby said this after he picked up the Young Player of the Year for the second consecutive season on a night he was also up for the Man of Steel award.
This leaves him with a much bigger role to play at Old Trafford on Saturday than he has in the past and he’s ready to live up to it: “It does feel a bit different, I’ve got a bit of a bigger role, it’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m going to take it under my wing.”
However, he very nearly didn’t play a role at all after he was charged with a Grade A high tackle on Chris Atkin in the semi-final but fortunately for Welsby, he didn’t receive a ban.
He spoke about the moment he was told he was free to play: “I got a call at half 12, Woolfy gave me a quick ring and I thought the worst but thankfully no ban, I’m ready to go now.”