THE stakes couldn’t be higher, the opposition any better, the crowd at Old Trafford any bigger.
But Joel Tomkins admits he was more nervous playing against Huddersfield – in front of 10,000 fans – than he will be this Saturday.
Once you get to the Grand Final, it’s excitement – it takes care of itselfJoel Tomkins
“For me, the nerves were last week,” he said, at Monday’s Grand Final media conference.
“It’s going into a semi when everyone is twitchy, because you don’t want to miss out on the final.
“I felt the pressure last week, because we were the big favourites, so I was more nervous than this.
“Once you get to the Grand Final, it’s excitement – it takes care of itself.
“You know it’s huge, you know it will be a packed house – and I think the more of them you play in, the more you enjoy the week leading up to it.
“There will be that pressure, but because it’s so big... it’s safe to say both sides will give 100 per cent.”
Wigan began previewing Leeds on Tuesday, looking for strengths and weaknesses in a squad which have already claimed two pieces of silverware, and are now chasing a third.
After four meetings already this season, Tomkins admits they know each other pretty well already.
“We know how they’re going to play, and I’m sure they know how we’ll play,” he said.
“It’s who will impose their game-plan on the opposition more effectively.
“Sinfield and McGuire do a good job of guiding them around, Cuthbertson has an offload, they have some exciting backs, Hardaker has been outstanding, strong wingers, quality centres.
“So it’s more a case of making sure we all do our own job.
“We’ve been pretty happy with our form, but we did a review on Huddersfield and highlighted areas to improve on, and we’ll try and do that for Saturday.” One new twist to the build-up will be the old-guard – Matty Bowen is retiring after the big match, while Leeds will say farewell to warhorses Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, as well as skipper Kevin Sinfield.
“That’s something we’ve spoken about,” said the dual-code international.
“There are some big characters of the game – JP, especially, is someone I’ve admired for a long time.
“It will be a motivator for them, and we have to match that enthusiasm.
“Leeds are very experienced in these situations, and they do tend to start well anyway, so we’ve got to go with them and get in the arm-wrestle.
“Then it’s a case of see who can handle it the longest.”
Tomkins has been joined at Orrell in recent weeks by brother Sam, ahead of his return to Wigan for 2016 after two years away in the NRL.
“It’s good having him around, he’s doing his rehab at the club,” he said.
And has the doting dad asked his brother to babysit yet?
“No, definitely not,” he smiled. “I’ll wait until he’s had his own first.”