Wane so glad to be back at Wembley
Whatever the result of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, the losers this weekend will be Shaun Wane's dogs.
Whenever Wigan fail to reach Wembley, Wane heads for the hills in his efforts to take his mind away from what might have been and his dogs get to go for long walks in the wilderness.
For the last three years, the dogs have enjoyed the wilds of Scotland but this week their owner has had other things on his mind, like lifting the cup at Wembley once more.
“I’ve thought about it every day,” Wane said.
“I’ve not been getting much sleep, making sure we’ve got a good game plan which can unpick Hull.
“I’ve hated it, going away and sulking and not watching it.”
The fact that Wigan’s first Challenge Cup final since their 2013 triumph over Hull is against the same opponents adds to the satisfaction of a man who lives and breathes rugby league, just like the Airlie Birds coach Lee Radford.
“I’m so glad to be back and so glad I get to do it against Lee,” Wane said.
“I like him and I like the way his teams play.
“I speak to him more than any other Super League coach. I’m always ringing or texting him and wishing him all the best.
“I like the way he played and I like the way he coaches. He went through a tough time when he started like me, but he’s come through the other end of it.
“I’ve a lot of respect for him and I’m motivated to pit my wits against him with a game plan that can get us the win.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, they’re a big athletic team, far bigger than us.
“But my team are very competitive and know how to win these big games, as they showed against Cronulla.”
That win over Cronulla enabled Wigan to become the first club to be crowned world champions for a fourth time and they have not given up hope of retaining their Super League crown at Old Trafford in October.
But it is the Challenge Cup for which Wigan have become renowned and for Wane, who won it once as a player in 1988 at the start of the club’s unprecedented run of eight successive Wembley triumphs, reckons it is bigger than the Grand Final.
“I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “It’s been with me for years. I went down as a kid, no matter who played, it means a lot to me.
“I remember walking on the field after we beat Hull and seeing Lockers (captain Sean O’Loughlin) and hugging him. It was a feeling which will live with me forever.”
Given their widespread big-match experience it is only to be expected that Wigan directors Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinksi leave no stone unturned in their efforts to ensure the team is as best prepared as possible and Wane loves to add an extra touch.
He brought in his old team-mate Andy Gregory before the semi-final to talk to his players and got England fly-half Owen Farrell, son of former Wigan captain Andy Farrell, to present the jerseys at the team hotel on Thursday night.
“It makes the occasion a bit more special,” Wane said. “A few things Andy Gregory said stuck with the players.
“Ian and Kris really look after us, they make it a special occasion, with a nice hotel and they look after the wives.
“But we don’t get carried away, we’re there to do a job. At the end of the day, we have to win.
“You can dress it up as much as you want, but it won’t be enjoyable if we don’t get the win. The players understand that.”