'˜I hope people realise I've left Wigan Warriors in good nick'
Shaun Wane was walking down the street when a man with more muscles than Popeye stopped him.
“He looked like a bodybuilder,” Wane recalled. “He approached me and I thought, ‘What’s going on?’
“But then he shook my hand and thanked me for everything I’d done, and he was nearly in tears!
“It’s nice to know that people appreciate what you’ve done. I’d like to think I’ve done my bit.”
His bit is quite a lot.
His seven years in charge makes him Wigan’s fifth longest-serving coach of all time, and the longest in the Super League era.
Saturday’s match will be his fifth Grand Final and on top of that, Wigan have a League Leaders’ Shield, two Challenge Cup wins, another Wembley visit, and a World Club Challenge victory under his watch.
He understands why he has become the focal point of the build-up to the Old Trafford showdown.
But he doesn’t particularly like it.
“I’d rather it be about the players, it’s all about them,” he said, speaking at Monday’s Grand Final media conference.
“When we’ve won (finals) in the past, it’s great seeing them celebrate, knowing whatever happens in the future they’ll always have that bond together.
“It’s not easy, sitting here talking about me. I’ve had questions all day and it’s uncomfortable.
“But I realise I’ve caused it.”
His decision in May to step down at the end of the year took many by surprise, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence his side suffered a dip in form afterwards.
But some “honest meetings” helped put them back on track, and their semi-final win was their eighth in a row, putting them in good shape to send him out as a Grand Final winner.
Now, as he inches towards the end, does he regret the decision?
“You have good days at work when you think, ‘What have I done?’” he said.
“But that’s natural. I made the call and I’ll take it on the chin now.
“I’m excited about the new challenge.
“Deep down I think it’s the right time to go.
“I think I’ve done my bit, I left Worsley Hall at 15 and I wanted to make a difference.
“I feel I’ve done that, I’ve won a World Club Challenge for my hometown, and I’ve put my stamp on something, however big or small that is.
“I hope people realise I’ve left the place in decent nick, with good players and a good culture.”
Wane picked out last year’s World Club Challenge win against Cronulla as the single biggest highlight of his tenure although, he says, it is the day-to-day interactions he will miss, as well as the satisfaction of seeing the development of his players.
“I remember Liam Farrell as a ginger-haired little kid,” he said. “Now I’ve been to his wedding, his kid’s christening... I drive past the house he is doing up, every day, and I see him on the park with his little ‘un and I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. And that goes for all the players. That’s what I’ve loved.
I’ve been very lucky to do this, it’s been my dream job and I’ve loved it.”