Two of the wisest voices in rugby league reckon it will be St Helens making history and winning the Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Both Eddie Hemmings and his TV partner of yesteryear Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson are united in their view that much will depend on whether the newly-crowned Man of Steel Sam Tomkins overcomes injury to play for underdogs Catalans Dragons.
Hemmings, the legendary Sky RL commentator, and ex-Dewsbury, Penrith Panthers and GB hooker Stevo appeared on Betfred TV’s ‘The Last Tackle’ Grand Final preview show on Tuesday night.
They were typically forthright in their views about Saturday’s showdown – and also on the recent changes at Wigan Warriors.
“It’s going to be the best game of the season bar none,” predicted Hemmings, who acknowledged that Catalans have played “some fantastic stuff” to reach the Betfred Super League Grand Final.
The veteran broadcasters were not only full of praise for the Dragons, but also for their key man Tomkins, pinpointing how well he has settled in the south of France with his wife and family.
Tactically, Hemmings reckons that the Dragons have to take the game to St Helens, while Stevo believes fellow hooker James Roby could well have a big influence for holders Saints.
Stevo, speaking from Australia, told Betfred TV: “Roby is the best hooker that I’ve ever seen. This man just keeps giving and giving.”
The man from Down Under went as far as to say Saints, if they win on Saturday, will have proved to be the best team ever seen in Super League history.
“Catalans’ defence has got to be 100%. Sometimes they drop off down the middle which is where Alex Walmsley could benefit. He has been the best prop forward this year, including players in Australia and New Zealand.”
Pressed to make their predictions, both plumped for Saints. Hemmings reckons it will be on golden point – a reverse of the Magic Weekend fixture in Newcastle.
Turning to the big changes at Wigan following the departure of Adrian Lam, Hemmings said the “Godfather” Shaun Wane is back.
He’ll be overseeing affairs at the Warriors with Matt Peet as head coach alongside assistant coaches Sean O’Loughlin and Lee Briers. Peet and O’Loughlin have been promoted from within, while the appointment of Warrington legend Briers has raised eyebrows in the game.
But both Hemmings and Stevo reckon the Briers switch is good for rugby league as the former Wire half-back has been kept out of the clutches of rugby union which Hemmings described as the “dark side”.
Hemmings made the point that five or six of the Catalans players lining up at Old Trafford at the weekend are ex-Wigan, and that there is a conveyer belt of young talent at the club.
The duo agreed that the club is going through a transitional period, but with more youngsters in the pipeline fans will have to be patient.
Watch the full show below