Two legends of the Betfred Super League era will play the final match of their careers tonight in Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham – and I have clear memories of what this week will have been like for them.
Back in 2015, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai and myself were all retiring ahead of our Grand Final against Wigan and all of my senses seemed to heighten in the build-up to the game.
Everything seemed richer and more real – everything dials up and I imagine both Lockers and Jammer will have had stages where they feel really appreciative of the fortunate position they’re in.
Everything you do during the week is for the last time: the last press conference, the last training run with your team-mates.
I remember there being no real nerves involved, I was just looking forward to getting out there and giving it everything to deliver one last big performance.
It wasn’t being blaze about anything, it was making sure you felt every little nuance though the whole week.
At Leeds, we’d tried to keep a lid on the emotional element of it in the final weeks of the season but leading up to the game that genie was out of the bottle and we uncorked delving into the personal stories involved.
And what an end to the week it was as we won, to complete an historic treble.
What will be interesting for Sean and James is when they walk out, another great of the summer era will be taking the match ball out in Gareth Ellis, who is also retiring.
I think they’ll look at him and realise that they’re in the fortunate position of having this last chance at finishing with a coveted prize.
As for the game itself, I hate sitting on the fence with anything and I’ve been stewing it over but I can’t call it.
All of the factors that could separate the teams are even, including having that emotion from a leader of the team retiring.
I’m going to predict a first-ever Golden Point Grand Final and a fitting end to an unforgettable season.
***Betfred – Passionate About Super League.