SHAUN Wane took his seat in his first press conference as a Super League winning coach and had something to get off his chest to the waiting media.
“I was expecting a few apologies to be honest,” he smirked.
“About how we’ve been doubted all year and had it thrown back in our faces that we’re not going to win anything and it’s all gone quiet now.”
An awkward silence greeted the Wigan coach. Why? Because he was bob on.
Constantly written off and endlessly criticised, the Warriors have had no shortage of doubters to question them over the past couple of years.
“Does Wane have enough experience?” they asked in January last year. As he takes a sip of his first pint in the Old Trafford press conference room less than two years later, he has won all three pieces of silverware the British game has to offer. So yes, he does.
Sure there was a lot of skill and copious amounts of talent involved, but it was passion, pride and determination – values this club prides itself upon.
It was another grand day out for Wigan. Once again, the town followed their side in their thousands to yet another final (the third in less than five months if anyone wants to keep count).
Before the game, the surrounding areas of the Theatre of Dreams hummed with anticipation and expectancy. Was this Grand Final going to live up to its billing and become one of the best there has ever been?
Before Warriors had even got to this stage, we boasted about Wigan being the sporting capital of the UK. If it was in doubt before Saturday’s thrilling final, it certainly isn’t now.
The bookies’ had Warrington down as slight favourites, but try telling that to the Cherry and White army assembling outside the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
Defying the odds and coming out on top is what Wiganers do best.
Once again, Wigan was united. Among the tens of thousands of Warriors fans making their way inside was Wigan Athletic chief executive Jonathan Jackson, hoping that come Monday morning, he could pass another famous piece of silverware on the way to his office.
Inside the ground, the supporters lifted the roof. The Old Trafford stewards had to invest in some earplugs, they weren’t used to noise levels of this magnitude.
The match itself was the cliche “game of two halves” but both made it one of the greatest Grand Finals in living memory.
After just two minutes, Blake Green was on the floor after copping the right hook of big Ben Westwood. A heavyweight boxer would have had the towel thrown in.
Not Wigan’s No.6 though. He got up, ran his socks off, scored a try and picked up the Harry Sunderland trophy in the process.
With Warriors heading into half-time 16-2 down though, the game looked beyond them. Warrington appeared untouchable... and then it happened. Darrell Goulding touched down and the East Stand’s sea of Cherry and White turned into a tidal wave as the players headed off for the break.
What followed was the stuff of folklore. The greatest comeback in Grand Final history.
It was that man Green at the heart of it, too. While Wane also revels in proving the doubters wrong, so does he.
Many questioned the capabilities of Green and half-back partner Matty Smith replacing Thomas Leuluai and Brett Finch. You wonder if those questions will be asked now as both players sit at home with their Challenge Cup medals, Super League rings and Man-of-the-Match awards each from the two finals. Thought not.
As the second half wore on, Wigan grew stronger and the fans got louder. Hands went from being wrapped around heads to mouths as nails were chewed with nerves. And as Pat Richards touched down for his farewell try in the 73rd minute, all you could see were beaming smiles and emphatic hugs and all you could hear was the bellowing chant of “CHAMPIONES.”
The emotion after the full-time whistle was pretty much indescribable. From disbelief to joy and glee to a hint of sadness as the club said goodbye to four quality players.
Richards and fellow departing stars Sam Tomkins, Chris Tuson and Lee Mossop received their own special ovation from the Wigan fans; one they richly deserved.
The biggest cheer of the night, though, came at approximately 8.15pm as Sean O’Loughlin lifted the Super League trophy aloft for the second time in his career.
Wigan are champions again, make room in that trophy cabinet, we’ve won another one.