Record-breaking captain Kevin Sinfield is confident Leeds Rhinos have more fuel left in the tank.
The First Utility Super League Grand Final will be Rhinos’ 36th game of a gruelling campaign, during which they have had just one weekend off –in February.
Rhinos lost three successive games after their Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR in August and were then pushed to the wire in tough battles with Huddersfield Giants and St Helens.
Four senior players will miss tomorrow evening’s final due to injury, but Sinfield insisted he has no fear of Rhinos falling flat on the biggest occasion of the year.
“I’ve been asked whether we can get up for it and I don’t think there’ll be a problem,” Sinfield insisted.
“Mentally, we’re in a really good place and if you’d asked me before the Huddersfield game I think you’d have got a different answer to be honest.
“Getting two wins under our belt has been good and our performances have been better in the last two, albeit knowing we’ll need to play better (tomorrow).
“Physically we’ve got an eight-day turnaround which is a huge luxury at this time of the year.
“We’ve got to play well and with the medical team we’ve got, they haven’t overcooked us this week; they’ll make sure that come 6pm we’re ready to go and we’re at the peak of our performance levels.”
There is a huge prize at stake. With the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield already in the Headingley trophy cabinet, Rhinos have an opportunity to complete an historic treble.
“There’s not many teams, who’ve done it,” Sinfield said. “In my 19 seasons at the Rhinos we’ve never had an opportunity like this to do it before.
“You don’t know what will happen, but how the team have performed this year and the trophies we’ve won already have made it a special year for everyone – not just the three that are leaving.”
Along with Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, Sinfield is preparing for his final competitive game in Rhinos colours.
“Surprisingly, I’m really relaxed,” he said of his last match before switching codes to join Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Club. “It’s great to be in the Grand Final again, with it being three years since the last time.
“I don’t think it ever loses its magic, it’s a very special place for the Rhinos.
“We’ve had some very special nights and got some very special memories of Old Trafford.”
On a personal level, Sinfield added: “I’ll be nervous, because I was nervous last Friday (ahead of the semi-final against St Helens), knowing it was my final competitive game at Headingley.
“I actually like being nervous and like having nervous energy, the excitement of playing in big games and things like that is good.
“You might see some emotions after the final hooter depending on the result, but if you start getting caught up in the emotion too much and all the fluff that can go with it, you’ll get beat.
“Wigan are too good a side to not let us have control over our own emotions.”
Lifting the Super League trophy for a seventh time would be the perfect end to Sinfield’s career – and what has been a rollercoaster year for the former England captain.
He was left out of the starting line-up – and the team altogether – several times after announcing his move to rugby union, but responded by playing some of his best rugby as he guided the team to a cup and league leaders double.
“Some of the tough times I’ve had to go through have made me a stronger rugby player and a better person,” said Sinfield, who only cemented his place back in the team in June, when young stand-off Liam Sutcliffe was ruled out with a season-ending knee injury.
“I know people come out with these cliches but I genuinely believe that.
“Nobody enjoys going through them, but if you’re tough enough to get through them you reap the rewards later on in life.”
Sinfield is already the most successful captain in Leeds’ and Super League history, but his impending change of career has not made him any less hungry for glory.
“I’ve got some decent memories of lifting the Super League trophy and I’d love to be able to do it one more time, he said.
“I just want to go and play well, but there’d be no better way to bow out than by winning the Grand Final.
“When the announcement was made in March, you have an idea of how you want to finish and finishing off at Old Trafford with the trophy would be brilliant.
“I know how difficult it’s going to be, and I know and remember (current St Helens coach) Keiron Cunningham’s final act as a rugby player when Wigan beat them at Old Trafford (in 2010).
“After winning last Friday and speaking to Kieron, I remember quite vividly how difficult it must have been for him to finish that way. Whatever happens on Saturday, we’ll give it our all and be able to look into that mirror afterwards.”
Sinfield will make his 521st appearance for Rhinos tomorrow. He has scored 93 tries, 1,776 goals and 39 drop goals, for a points tally of 3,953.