Dom Manfredi is 80 minutes away from a first Grand Final winner’s ring, but just over a month ago he would have taken playing just one game.
A two-try comeback in last month’s 26-6 win over tomorrow’s opponents Warrington marked the end of two years of torment for the 25-year-old.
Having seen comebacks from a serious leg injury stall to the point he was looking for a job outside of rugby, Manfredi’s year will end at Old Trafford, in just his fifth game back.
“I thought I had no chance of playing in a Grand Final this year and for it to happen this way, it’s madness,” he said. “How it’s worked out – it’s mad. I can’t describe it.
“I’m really looking forward to this. I played three games, a semi-final and now the chance to play in a final.
“When I played one first-team game I’d have been happy with that.”
Having been injured during a loss to Castleford in August 2016, the following year Manfredi’s comeback was derailed with a recurrence of the injury in a reserves game.
With such a long comeback journey, winger Manfredi insists just coming through his first 80 minutes back in Super League would have been enough but his confidence is growing with each week.
“I had no expectations at all – just to get through the 80 minutes, once, I’d have been more than happy with,” he explained.
“So to now be playing in a Grand Final is ridiculous.
“I’ve been feeling confident each week, and my match-fitness is building – I had to play conservatively at first because no matter how you try, it’s something you can’t replicate in training.”
But standing in Manfredi’s way of a first Grand Final win are Steve Price’s Wolves, and Tom Lineham opposite him.
Wigan’s past two Grand Final wins have come against the Wolves, but Manfredi acknowledged he will need to ramp up his aggression now his match fitness is recovering. “Warrington are in a Grand Final, which tells you how good they are. I’m expecting a tough, tight game,” he said.
“Tom Lineham, he’s a big unit so I’ll have to work hard to get into his face.”
This will be Manfredi’s second Grand Final appearance – he scored a try in the 2015 loss to Leeds – and despite making a big contribution the following year, he missed out on a winner’s ring.
But he insists that doesn’t bother him, even though he had to celebrate from the sidelines.
“In 2016, I played more than 20 games but I didn’t get a winner’s ring, but I wasn’t bothered – in my eyes I didn’t deserve one because I didn’t play in the final,” he said.
“It was a tough one to celebrate but I was happy for the lads.”