Wane: Magic is celebration of sport's strengths
It's little surprise Shaun Wane is a fan of the Magic Weekend.
He has won all four of his past encounters at Super League’s annual ‘on the road’ event - no small feat, given the heavyweight opposition Wigan have faced.
And he didn’t lose any of his two matches as Michael Maguire’s assistant either.
But even if he hadn’t enjoyed such a glorious Magic record, the straight-talking Warriors boss reckons he would be a fan of playing all six games at one venue.
“I think it’s a great event,” he said.
“There aren’t many sports in the world where fans can sit together, drink together, watch each other’s teams and chat - and it’s right that we should celebrate that.
“We’re always reluctant to congratulate ourselves in our sport, but that’s something we should be proud of.”
Tonight’s Grand Final rematch has taken on a new complexion by Leeds’ shocking form this season.
They are rock-bottom of the Super League table, yet Wane stressed their league position doesn’t marry up to their personnel.
“I know how hard it is to do a double, and they went one step further last year,” said Wane.
“If you look at their squad, the majority of the players are still there.
“They have got some fantastic individuals so there’ll be no-one here looking at their league position, absolutely not.
“We’ll be looking at the talent in their side and recognising we need to be on our game.
“They’re hurting - but we’re hurting too.”
There is one startling similarity between Wigan and Leeds this season - they have the worst attacks in Super League.
Wane’s troops have amassed 264 points, only 22 more than the Rhinos. Leaders Warrington, by contrast, have 419 on the board and Catalans 398.
But with frontline players now back on board, Wane is confident they can make improvements.
George Williams started at stand-off last Friday, and Sam Tomkins made his long-awaited return to the side.
“There’s going to be rust, and that will continue,” said Wane. “But as long as they show improvements I’m happy.
“We’ve made it clear we won’t rush Sam - it’s going to take him time to find his feet after nine months out.
“George is still young, he’s playing in a major position and in our system we put a lot of pressure on our halves, so not easy for him.
“But he’s shown some touches since he returned and sure he’ll get better.”
Fit-again Ben Flower replaces Tony Clubb, while Sam Tomkins is expected to start at full-back, allowing Dan Sarginson to revert to his preferred centre spot.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott admits there would be no better way for the Super League champions to kick-start their disastrous season than with victory over Wigan in a repeat of the 2015 Grand Final.
The Rhinos, who included the league leaders’ shield as part of their treble last season, remain rooted to the foot of the table after losing 11 of their 14 matches so far, including a demoralising 28-6 defeat by the Warriors in March.
Leeds’ fortunes hit a new low with a 52-12 home defeat by Castleford, a week after crashing out of the Challenge Cup.
And McDermott says he has been forced to once more re-set his aims as he prepares for the Magic Weekend showdown with Wigan.
“We’ve changed one or two things but we’ve been doing that since rounds two and three,” McDermott said. “We’ve been adapting each week.
“After what was a really disappointing performance against Cas, you’ve got to look at what we do and look at what are are trying to achieve and re-evaluate those things, which is always difficult mid-season.
“To beat Wigan would be a boost for us.”