Latics manager Warren Joyce will be back at the DW Stadium tomorrow to watch stable-mates Wigan Warriors bid for a world title.
Shaun Wane’s Super League champions face Australian champions Cronulla Sharks in the World Club Challenge.
I’ve been to the last 10 Grand Finals, no matter who’s been playing
Joyce’s brother Wayne works for Warriors in their community department, and the ex-Manchester United Under-21s boss played the sport as a teenager - when his school teacher was none other than veteran BBC commentator Ray French.
“I’m going to be coming along, to have a nosey,” said Joyce, ahead of today’s mouthwatering derby with Preston.
“I remember the Sydney Roosters coming in to Manchester United last year to have a look round the facilities, the coaches talked to the reserve players, and it was really good.
“Obviously I’m a keen rugby fan - and this is the first time my brother has come good with getting me some tickets instead of the other way around!
“I’m very much looking forward to the game - hopefully after we’ve got three points on the Saturday.”
Joyce has watched Wane lead his side to the Super League title twice in the last four years.
“You obviously don’t get much spare time in this job, but I watch a lot of the night games and I’ve been to the last 10 Grand Finals at Old Trafford - no matter who’s been playing,” he said. “They’ve always been good occasions.”
Joyce revealed he showed rugby league to an American friend Lance Walker, who was once a conditioning coach at American Football giants Dallas Cowboys.
“He couldn’t believe it when he saw rugby league,” added Joyce. “He said, ‘We’ve got some big guys, but there’s no way they’d hit each other without padding - there’s no way’.
“He couldn’t believe the ferocity of the game, he was amazed. And I think people over here do take rugby league for granted a little bit. They’re used to seeing players hit one another with such ferocity, and they just think it’s normal.
“But people coming in from another country, they appreciate how fit, how brave, how strong the players are - and you take their hat off to them.”