Here we stand on the brink of the engage Superleague 2006 Grand Final and I cannot believe that I’ve yet to mention it in this blog.
The final will be staged on Saturday before a likely 73,000 sell-out crowd at Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium and will be contested by league leaders, St Helens and second-placed club, Hull FC.
The Saints are my team: it’s my town, my sport.
And those Saints have been the dominant force in Superleague not just this season, when they finished eight points clear of second placed Hull, but since they won Superleague’s inaugural competition in 1996.
Since that memorable start, Saints have won 10 of the possible 22 trophies on offer, leaving Bradford (6), Leeds, Wigan and Hull to pickup the scraps with the rest of the league as also-rans.
As a local lad that period is a golden age, which almost makes up for the life-tainting, id-ruining, memory of a decade (1985 through 1995) under the heel of our hated rivals, Wigan.
I grew into sporting awareness around 1970, just as the last blush was fading on Saints previous golden age of the Sxties; so now I can appreciate this one all the more.
But whether Saints beat Hull tomorrow or not, they have been a great team to watch again this season and the emergence of quality young talent such as James Graham and James Roby bodes well for continued success.
Yet, I’ve got to tip a hat too to Hull. They were always the team that played most in Saints style and they are again a major threat. With local born talent such as Cooke, the Horne bros.’ and GB centre Kirk Yeaman, they are certain to give Saints a stern test. It really is a game that could not only go either way but also could be a tight contest or a blow-out if either set of forwards gains the upper hand early.
Saints fans will be hoping that homeward bound Aussie centre, Jamie Lyon, will crown a magical two year stay t St.Helens in story book style.
The silky skills of Lyon will only be decisive though if Saints hard working pack can create the go-forward necessary to create the space upon which he and Saints GB scrum half, Sean Long, thrive.
Tune into Sky tv to see the final live on Saturday night (6pm GMT) or check the Super League Website for details.