BEN Flower is ready for a demolition derby tomorrow night – a decade after a Wigan-St Helens final hooked him on rugby league!
The Welshman was a promising union player when he and a few friends attended the 2004 Challenge Cup Final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Incredibly, one of the Wigan players in that loss – Sean O’Loughlin – will now be leading the Warriors out at Old Trafford as Shaun Wane’s outfit prepare to defend their Super League title.
And 26-year-old Flower admits it will be “unbelievable” to be involved, so many years after a derby final lured him to the code.
He said: “I was saying to the boys earlier, I can remember my first ever game was watching Wigan and Saints play at the Millennium.
“I just remember everyone going on about it being the biggest derby.
“I loved it. So for me to be a part of it now will be unbelievable – and hopefully we get the same result as last year.”
Since returning from injury Flower has been in arguably career-best form.
A compact, strong and fierce competitor, he and his fellow front-rowers have proved a cornerstone of their four-game winning streak against heavyweight opposition.
Given their form and fully-fit squad, they head into the contest as favourites to clinch the trophy they lifted last year.
But Flower says there is no risk of them underestimating their opponents.
“Saints finished top of the ladder,” the Welsh international said.
“They turned us over at our place with a weakened team when we were full strength, so we know how good they are.
“At the same time, we know what we need to do to beat them. They’ve got the talent.”
Flower is a Manchester United fan but his only visits to Old Trafford have been when he has played!
“I’ve only experienced it once, last year, when it was immense occasion and to be there again was special,” he smiled.
“I would like to watch United play there one day... but for the time being I’d rather be playing there.”
Meanwhile, an RFL spokesman confirmed ticket sales have passed last year’s Grand Final attendance of 66,281.
Wigan last night had a handful remaining, and the RFL will continue to sell them up until kick-off.
The 2010 derby Grand Final drew 71,526 and the biggest crowd yet for a decider was 72,582 in 2006.