The 18th Man column: Where should the Grand Final be staged?

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Our 18th Man columnists give their thoughts on the Grand Final venue, Bevan French, and Salford's ex-Warriors...

The Grand Final may be moved from Old Trafford this year – where would you like it to be staged?

Alex Graham: For the competition to get to the Grand Final itself should be seen as a success with the amount of bumps we’ve had along the way, therefore I hope there remains a conservative approach to where the final is staged.

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I’ve seen some extravagant suggestions from France and Australia, but what the final needs least is any element of risk when it comes to travel. The right thing to do will be review the football fixture list and see what good-sized northern stadiums are available which cause low risk and disruption.

Would Hull FC's KCOM Stadium be a fitting venue for the Super League title decider?Would Hull FC's KCOM Stadium be a fitting venue for the Super League title decider?
Would Hull FC's KCOM Stadium be a fitting venue for the Super League title decider?

The final deserves a bigger stage than usual, therefore I’d be looking at the availability of stadiums such as Elland Road, Etihad, St James Park and Anfield which have all staged rugby league fixtures of significance and special occasion. yet ensure the risks and costs of travel are kept minimal.

The aim is to fulfill the commercial obligations of this year’s competition with as little disruption as possible.

Jon Lyon: Does it really matter? Presuming no fans will be allowed in then it might as well be on the moon.

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I suppose it should retain some prestige so probably best we don’t play it down the local park, but other than that it’s really all about keeping costs down, so anywhere suitable that’s cheap as chips. I would just use a neutral Super League venue from those already in use.

Darren Wrudd: The final is the final wherever it is held, so as we won’t be allowed inside to watch it, I would perhaps suggest one of the stadiums with a bigger footprint than others. Also, one which has not been over used during the standard rounds so that leaves Leeds and Saints out.

Perhaps a Grand Final at Hull FC’s KCOM stadium would be good.

The money would stay within the rugby league family and the ground itself is one of the best in the league.

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Also the fact that unless miracles happen, the two teams playing in the final will both feel like an away game, giving no advantage to either us or Warrington.

Steve Ford: Haven’t got a strong view on this at all. However, if pushed, the DW would be my choice even though I know that the chances of it happening are nil. I think they will actually stage it in Huddersfield.

If Bevan French departs at the end of this season, where would you rank him in terms of the club’s best overseas signings?

Alex Graham: That’s a question that’s more easily answered at the end of the season.

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As an entertaining, more individual player here for a short term, we remember those players more with the silverware they contribute towards.

Would similar players like John Ferguson be hailed as much had he not won the 1985 Challenge Cup Final? Would Amos Roberts be more highly regarded had he continued his excellent form to play a part in the 2010 Grand Final?

I think Bevan French is far from one of the most well-rounded overseas players in Wigan’s history, but if his moments of brilliance contribute towards winning a Grand Final he will quite rightly be mentioned alongside Ferguson, opposed to Roberts.

Jon Lyon: As an individual talent he’s as good as any we’ve had in recent years. Bevan is no Brett Kenny but he certainly lights up the stadium every time he touches the ball.

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He is unpredictable and offers something no-one else in Super League currently does. Some of his tries had to be seen to be believed.

Overall, though, I think loyalty also counts, so when I look back I would place the likes of Pat Richards, Brett Dallas, Dean Bell, and many more higher than French just for longevity as well as talent.

I hope he stays but if he goes I’m sure it’s with everyone’s best wishes and it’s been a pleasure to watch him play.

Darren Wrudd: Very difficult to rank a player who has equipped himself very well for the short time he has been here, but nevertheless has not exactly shone for the duration of his stay so far. French is no doubt a talented lad with pace to burn and a wicked side step.

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However, I simply don’t think we have had a proper chance to see him play.

I would love to have seen him for another year in a settled partnership with Jackson Hastings and Harry Smith.

Continuity is the issue and it takes years for the very best partnerships to shine. But how could we possibly compare him against names like Trent Barrett, Adrian Lam, Brett Kenny or even the evergreen granite shoulders himself in Tommy Leuluai?

Steve Ford: He’s not in the same league as Kenny or Barrett but he’s the best overseas signing for a few years. I think that the lack of any silverware will mean he won’t be included in the top tier by quite a lot of people.

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A pity he didn’t get to sample playing on drier grounds or in a packed stadium versus Saints. I hope that he stays however, it looks very unlikely.

As well as being an exciting player he also comes across as a good guy who obviously enjoys his rugby.

Salford have several ex-Warriors in the ranks. Who’s your favourite and why?

Alex Graham: I think the role Kevin Brown has played for clubs with limited capabilities has been brilliant. Although extremely unlucky to never achieve major final success, he’s played a key role during his time at Huddersfield, Widnes and Salford in particular by being the key playmaker in getting two of those clubs to finals, which are probably beyond their usual expectations.

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His ability to still complete effectively at 35, and how articulate he comes across on Sky or radio, highlights his professionalism.

Another player I’m glad to see doing well is Lee Mossop as there were question marks over his future following persistent shoulder injuries.

Although it was probably right at the time for he and Wigan to depart at the time, it’s great to see him now captain a Super League club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing...

Jon Lyon: It’s very hard to single one player out.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Lee Mossop, who was a superb young talent who was dreadfully unlucky with a recurring shoulder injury that set him back time and again. I’m delighted he’s gone on to success after leaving us.

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I think Kevin Brown would have to be my favourite. Even now he still looks about 12-years-old but he seemed so young when he came into the Wigan first team. He showed no fear and had a great passing and kicking game.

I’ll never forget the game he scored two tries in as an 18-year-old when we came back from 20-0 down to beat Saints 38-34 in 2003, with so many kids playing. I hope Stevo did buy him that watch he promised.

Darren Wrudd: There are so many ex-Wigan players around Super League these days it can be hard to keep up with them all, but one name that pops into my mind has to be Kevin Brown.

I was gutted when we let Kevin go as he was destined to be a great half back and has played at the top of the game for most of his career so far.

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Such a talented half back, he has every tool in the box at his disposal with a great

kicking game, still quite quick and a pass that has

broken many a defender’s heart.

He always seems such an unassuming lad when interviewed, far from the cocky little so-and-so who starred in a most famous win at Knowsley Road alongside Luke Robinson.

The fact he married my wife’s cousin’s daughter has nothing to do with my choice as, alongside another distant relative who happens to be a pop star, they never send a Christmas card either.

But Kevin would certainly be my favourite ex-Wigan player at the Reds, just wish he had played his game at Wigan.

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Steve Ford: Kevin Brown. A good honest professional. I can see him becoming a TV pundit for rugby league when he eventually retires from the game.

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