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The greatest XIII in Super League Grand Final history

With the Super League Grand Final just over 24 hours away, we have put together a star-studded team of players based on those who have performed best in Grand Finals since 1998. Of course the team is dominated with players from the only four teams to have won the Super League title to date – St Helens, Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls.

Full-back: Paul Wellens

‘Wello’ was the natural pick at full-back. He featured in 10 Grand Finals, including six in a row from 2006 to 2011. Prior to defeat in 2007, he had never lost at Old Trafford and his Grand Final career ended on a triumphant note as he lifted the Super League trophy as captain in 2014. But arguably his finest hour at the Theatre of Dreams came in 2006 when he claimed the Harry Sunderland Trophy as Saints blitzed Hull FC to complete the treble.

Wingers: Jason Robinson and Lee Smith

As the first Harry Sunderland Trophy winner in a Grand Final, Robinson was an easy pick in this side. There have been few better, more exciting backs in Super League since he moved to rugby union and even fewer to grace the Grand Final. Sadly, his last Old Trafford appearance ended in defeat in 2000 but no one will ever forget his try in the inaugural 1998 Grand Final. The other winger may seem a little controversial, but with four tries in three consecutive Grand Final wins, a 100% record at the Theatre of Dreams and a Harry Sunderland trophy to his name, Lee Smith makes the side. After scoring a superb try in 2007, he grabbed the man of the match award in 2008 against St Helens and then he helped Leeds win an unprecedented third straight Grand Final with a brace from centre in 2009. The hardest thing about his selection was deciding where he should play.

Centres: Michael Withers and Kevin Naiqama

Michael Withers is the only man to score a hat-trick in a Grand Final. It was one of the best individual performances the decider has ever seen as he helped fire Bradford to a record 37-6 win over Wigan in 2001. That wasn’t his only Grand Final appearance either, featuring in the Bulls 2003 and 2005 triumphs, while also grabbing a try in the 2002 defeat to Saints. Speaking of hat-tricks, over the last three years, Kevin Naiqama has helped St Helens to a hat-trick of Grand Final wins. Most people will immediately look back on his Harry Sunderland Award trophy winning performance last night in which he scored two lovely tries to seal the win but he was outstanding in the 2020 decider often getting the Saints on the front foot in a tight encounter.

Halves: Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow

Danny McGuire has arguably been the Grand Final’s best ever performer. He scored eight tries in nine appearances on the biggest stage. He also won eight of those nine Grand Finals, setting the record for the most Grand Final wins for a single club. On top of this, he won two Harry Sunderland Trophy awards in 2015 and 2017, the latter of which was one of the best single displays to grace the Theatre of Dreams as he scored a pair of tries and kicked two drop goals as he rounded off his Leeds career in style. Alongside him is his old partner in crime, Rob Burrow. The former Rhinos number seven, like McGuire, is one of only four players to claim two Harry Sunderland Awards. He was exceptional in the 2011 decider scoring Old Trafford’s greatest ever try before creating the match winning score for Ryan Hall. His 2007 display, which also yielded the Man of the Match award, was equally exquisite as he kicked well and got Leeds on the front foot. Meanwhile, he was vital in Leeds’ other six Grand Final wins and is the league’s most successful one club man.

Props: Stuart Fielden and Jamie Peacock

Stuart Fielden relished Grand Final night and having lost to St Helens in his first go around at Old Trafford in 1999, he returned two years later and scored a try as Bradford trampled over Wigan to claim the crown. He then went on to win two more Grand Finals at the Bulls before moving to Wigan, overseeing a great transition from nearly being relegated in 2006 to winning the Grand Final in 2010. Joining Fielden in the front-row is his former Bradford teammate Jamie Peacock. As Super League’s most successful player with nine Grand Final wins from eleven appearances in the title-decider, ‘JP’ had to be in this side. His first three Grand Final triumphs came at Bradford, the last of which saw him lift the trophy as captain against his future team. After that, he guided Leeds to unprecedented success as he won six Grand Finals with his hometown club, including three in a row from 2007-09. Peacock ended his Rhinos career in style in 2015 as Leeds beat Wigan at Old Trafford to win the treble.

Hooker: James Roby

Another of the few players to win two Harry Sunderland Awards, James Roby also joined another exclusive club yesterday when he joined Kevin Sinfield as the only skippers to captain their side to three consecutive Super League titles. The fulcrum in St Helens’ 2014 title win and impeccable in the 2020 decider, he’s always been a top performer on the biggest stage even in 2007 when he scored a magnificent try in defeat to Leeds.

Second-rowers: Chris Joynt and Liam Farrell

As the only Harry Sunderland Award winning second-rowers in the Super League era, these two had to be the pair to make this side. Joynt was captain fantastic for Saints as he guided them to three Grand Final triumphs in four seasons from 1999-2002. His finest performance in the final came in 2000 as he scored twice and claimed the man of the match. Liam Farrell followed in his footsteps in 2016 when he claimed the Harry Sunderland award after a superb performance from the back-row to help Wigan defeat Warrington and claim the crown. That was just one of four Grand Finals Farrell has won with his beloved Warriors, and he will be hoping to make that five come Friday night.

Loose-forward: Kevin Sinfield

The Grand Final’s most successful skipper with seven wins from eight attempts just had to feature. Sinfield scored points in all eight of his Grand Final appearances, including a try in the 2012 victory over Warrington. That night also saw him win a second Harry Sunderland Trophy, making him, Danny McGuire, James Roby and Rob Burrow the only men to win two in the Super League era. His other came in the 2009 win over St Helens where he pulled off a fine try-saving tackle on Kyle Eastmond, before leading the Rhinos to their third consecutive Grand Final triumph. He finished his rugby league career in the best possible fashion on a Grand Final night as Leeds won the treble with his conversion being the difference in a 22-20 win over Wigan.

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