Grand finalists eager to get going
Jordan Fiddes looks ahead to Saturday's Grand Final between Wigan and Warrington at Old Trafford.
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Wigan will give skipper Sean O'Loughlin until the last possible moment to prove his fitness for the Super League Grand Final on Saturday.
The back-rower has played for the club just once in the last 11 games and Sam Tomkins insists there would be no bigger boost than to have him back for the big game.
"You always want your best players playing and I would much, much rather have Lockers out there than to be leading the team out myself," said New Zealand Warriors-bound Tomkins. "He is our best player."
Tomkins is relishing his final game for the Cherry and Whites and believes a match up with Warrington is just what the sport needs.
"My dad remembers the cup final of 1990 and still talks about it now, it seems like this is the final that everyone wants."
One man certain to be playing on Saturday is influential scrum-half Matty Smith who joined the club in the off-season.
After gaining the Lance Todd Trophy in the Challenge Cup, the Wigan number seven produced another man-of-the-match performance in the gruelling semi-final victory over Leeds last week.
"This is why I joined Wigan, to play in the big games," he said. "It's always pressure playing for Wigan and, especially at number seven, but I feel I play better when the pressure is on."
Smith will have a crucial role to play with the boot as is so often the case on Grand Final day but, second-row Liam Farrell believes there is plenty more to the occasion too.
"We're really prepared for this one now. Last time I came it was a bit surreal, this time I'm more equipped for it," said the England World Cup squad member.
"I know what's coming, with the build-up and the fans. I've had to grow up a little bit this year and I'll help the younger guys play hard from the beginning."
There is a sense of anticipation among the players and fans alike this year as Warrington and Wigan prepare for their first final match-up since that 1990 Challenge Cup contest.
The usual apprehension is hard to find, with eagerness being the key term in all pre-match talk.
"The name says it all - this is the Grand Final. It doesn't get any bigger than this," says Adrian Morley - a man who played in the inaugural Grand Final in 1998 for Leeds.
"To be crowned champions at Old Trafford would eclipse any of the Challenge Cup wins we've had for sure," he added.
The Wolves - who will be led by Morley on Saturday evening - come into the game as marginal favourites and it's easy to see why.
In what was described by coach Tony Smith as a "tough old game" the Wire looked like a mature, champion side against Huddersfield last week, which they didn't 12 months ago at the 'Theatre of Dreams'.
Other than league leaders Huddersfield, Warrington have been the most consistent side and head to Old Trafford on the back of winning 13 of their last 14 games, as well as the added impetus of being undefeated against Wigan in 2013.
Mike Cooper - one of four Warrington players leaving at the end of the season - isn't looking at previous meetings ahead of Saturday however.
"We're not reading anything into the last few games against Wigan, we know that this will be the fastest game of the year by far and we have to be ready for that."
Cooper is heading down under to join St George Illawarra next year and insists this will be the perfect send-off for him and the others who will be departing.
"What a better way to finish your Warrington career than do it here, the atmosphere is different at a Grand Final to even a Challenge Cup Final so I'd love to win the big prize on Saturday."
If experience is the key, then Warrington should have the upper-hand with the likes of Morley, Briers and Michael Monaghan in their ranks.
All three have won Challenge Cups with the Wolves which has given Tony Smith's men the elusive favourite's tag, however O'Loughlin's fitness is likely to have a major bearing on the outright market and all the build-up prior to kick off.