Don't desert the Wolves
Our columnist Ian Millward previews this weekend's Grand Final action in Super League and the NRL.
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I've been saying for some time that I expect Warrington to be crowned champions at Old Trafford - and I've no intention of deserting them now.
They've won 13 of their last 14 games and there are reasons to believe they will be too good for Wigan here. The ruck area is the key. Warrington play the ball faster than any other team in the competition. Their two hookers, Michael Monaghan and Micky Higham, are both in the top four in terms of metres made from dummy half.
They also have a very strong bench. The key feature in last week's victory over Huddersfiield was the ability of their interchange players, four forwards, to make a significant impact on the action. Put this together with their dominance of the ruck and ability to offload (leaders in the competition) and you have a compelling case to side with the Wolves.
Wigan come to Old Trafford having only won seven of their last 14 games - but they have peaked for the big occasions. If Sean O'Loughlin is fit to play that would be a huge boost. I know he's been training this week and they're giving him every chance. He is a leader, who brings confidence and composure to the side. If he misses out I'd be even sweeter on Warrington.
The Wolves have experience across the park and for me this is their time. Lee Briers is the key man. He had a mixed first 40 minutes against Huddersfield last week, with his kicking and passing games. If he fires on all cylinders - and I expect him to - he will take advantage of the momentum the forwards gain.
However for man of the match I prefer Stefan Ratchford. He was outstanding last week, not only with his goalkicking, but his general play, and is firmly establishing himself as Warrington's full-back. He is a serious, serious talent and for me has the potential to help fill the void left in Super League by Sam Tomkins' departure to the NRL.
If you're looking for someone at a bigger price then Ben Westwood is suggested as a saver. I was amazed he didn't make the Man Of Steel shortlist. He plays 80 minutes, is always in the thick of the action and has the priceless ability to cross for tries, particularly from kicks.
However Joel Monaghan is my selection to cross first. He is opposite Pat Richards and they are two of the best leapers for a ball in the competition. Monaghan is averaging a try a game at the moment and will be the go-to man for the kicking game. A saver on Chris Bridge, the centre inside him, is also recommended.
The total points market is set at 40.5 and I'd be tempted to go for the overs. The weather is always the key here and so far the forecast is very good for Saturday evening. Both these teams know their way to the try line and I expect the points to come late - and for there to be enough to go past the line.
I think this is a tougher game to call than the Super League equivalent. I'm with the Roosters to win and cover but Manly have been there and done it before. They've shown through the play-offs that they're the most professional team in the competition. They're meticulous in their preparation and attention to detail.
However in the Roosters they face a side with an outstanding defence. Incredibly in seven games this season they haven't conceded a single point, a club record.
The interchange bench will play a key role here - like Old Trafford - and the Roosters look to have more quality and leg speed in their quartet. Apart from the replacements it's hard to split these two - they match up very evenly at full-back, centre, half-back, hooker, all the key areas. However in the replacement forwards I just feel my selections have more punch and mobility.
Crucially too the Roosters have had a more straightforward route to the final. Manly have had to get up off the canvas on more than one occasion in the play-offs and freshness could be a huge factor in the final quarter.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is my pick for first try scorer. He is always a threat and has unbelievable footwork with a good right and left step. He is one of the most feared players in the NRL.
Questions have been asked all year of the Roosters half-backs, the Origin pair Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney but they have really come to the party of late.
Maloney in particular has caught the eye and he looks ready to take the Jonathan Thurston role in years to come. He was one of the Roosters' marquee signings and can reward their confidence with a man of the match display.