Grand Final veteran Jamie Jones-Buchanan reckons there’s a “different feel” about tonight’s Engage Super League title decider.
Leeds Rhinos finished either first or second in the table before each of the club’s six previous Grand Finals, but were fifth this year.
In past campaigns the whole season has rested on 80 minutes at Old Trafford, but this time everyone – other than the players – views the Grand Final as a bonus.
“Nobody has been expecting much from us this year so there isn’t as much pressure,” claimed Jones-Buchanan, pictured right.
“On the flip side, when you look back in years to come at this group of Leeds lads, who everyone thought had fallen away, if we can come back and win another Grand Final it would cement us as being true champions.
“When you look back at teams who’ve been able to come back from a year or a couple of years of adversity, they are the real great ones.
“Whatever happens, I have enjoyed every minute with this group and that won’t change. But it would be real special for the club and the individuals in this team to finish the season off with a win – and the last laugh.”
Jones-Buchanan played in Rhinos’ three successive title triumphs from 2007 to 2009 – as well as 2004 – and said lifting the championship tonight from so far down the table would at least match that achievement.
“Three is a pretty magic number in my eyes, so that was massive,” he said. “To come back and do it again a couple of years later would be cheeky!
“As a Leeds lad and a Leeds supporter I would love to be part of that, it would be amazing. We lost the Challenge Cup final and to come back and get to this one, I am joyous, really happy.”
Leeds have lost their last three really big games – the 2010 and 2011 Wembley matches and last season’s World Club Challenge, while Saints are aiming to end a run of four successive Grand Final defeats.
“We talk about ourselves being under the radar, but in many ways Saints have been as well this year,” Jones-Buchanan observed.
“They are a big club with a lot of history, especially in the last decade. They will be determined to finish with a win as well.
“You should never write Saints off, they are a great side – they’ve finished third and done some great stuff this year, not least last week when they turned a strong Wigan side over.
“They’ve got a lot of very high-quality young lads in there, who haven’t got the scars of losing in previous years. They will just want to come out and get a Grand Final ring.
“We’re expecting a tough battle because of that – it will be as tough if not tougher than we had to face against Warrington last week.”
The RFL’s official betting partner William Hill have made Saints odds-on favourites to win this evening. Saints are 4/6, with Leeds at 5/4.
Leeds have a two-point start on the handicap coupon. Saints’ James Roby and James Graham are 6/1 joint favourites to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man-of-the-match.
Leeds’ Kevin Sinfield and Danny Buderus are priced at 7/1.
Saints winger Jamie Foster is 9/1 favourite to score the opening try. Rhinos’ Ryan Hall is 10/1.