After a season off, the natural balance is restored with the fourth Rhinos v. Saints Grand Final in five years, and it all still seems more than a little dreamlike. Leeds and Saints fans will both have been pinching themselves last weekend to check that they weren't dreaming as their sides both overcame the odds to make it to the showpiece event.
Leeds are the first team to make Old Trafford from outside the top three. After a season of looking like the Challenge Cup might be our only route to silverware we've upset the form, peaked at the right time in the season, and shown that the spirit in the camp is alive and kicking.
McDermott, from zero to hero, has the same seventeen available that performed the 'miracle of Halliwell-Jones' last friday and adds the, now fit Watkins, and soon to depart Ali Lauiti'iti to his ninteen man squad. The nineteen is; Webb, Delaney, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Lauitiiti, Bailey, Kirke, Watkins, Hauraki, Clarkson, Jones-Bishop, and Hardaker.
There appear to be two agonising decisions for the coach. Will Watkins get the call ahead of Hardaker? Will Ali get a final game in Blue & Amber before departing to Wakefield?
I suspect that big Mac will stick with Hardaker but also feel that he'll give Lauiti'iti the chance of being a game-breaker in his last, and 200th Leeds outing. The unlucky omission could well be Weller Hauraki.
Simmonds shocked few people when he omitted the Catalans bound Pryce in favour of his talented crop of youngsters. Another side who appeared to be having a transitional season have spent the year blooding, developing and refining their young talent. And now they are reaping the rewards.
There will be plenty of emotion about too, perhaps too much emotion.
All eyes will be on James Graham playing his last game in the red vee before moving down-under. He has been pumped up through the whole play-off series and will be close to bursting when he steps out on the Old Trafford turf on saturday evening. Maybe TMFMISL will burst his bubble?
Simmonds picks from a nineteen of; Wellens, Shenton, Soliola, Meli, Roby, Graham, Puletua, Wilkin, Moore, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Clough, Wheeler, Ashurst, Dixon, Lomax, Foster, Armstrong, Gaskell, and Makinson. Not your usual Saints household names, but a blended and integrated side of growing repute.
Three Saints to watch;
Saints have won both Superleague meetings between these two sides in 2011, but they will know that this counts for very little in a Grand Final. In the meeting at Headingley the visitors won 16-30, while the game at Saints one-season home in Widnes ended 16-42.
What is more important is that Leeds know how to beat the Saints at Old Trafford and that will be praying on the minds of the Saints players and their supporters.
On 2007 we won by 33-06, in 2008 by 24-16 and in 2009 by 18-10. The law of averages says that this will be Saints game, surely they can't lose four on the bounce to Leeds, or lose five consecutive finals?
I'm going for a Saints win, simply because I tipped Warrington last week and don't want to be a jinx by changing my strategy. I'll be saluting every magpie, pulling on the lucky underpants, and undertaking exactly the same pre-match that I did on '07, '08 and '09.
The bookies can't really split us, and most are giving Leeds a two or four point start on the handicapping. Without the handicap Saints are 4/6 for the win, with Leeds 11/8. Phil Bentham is in the middle, as he was for the Challenge Cup Final. Hopefully he'll not miss as many key incidents as he did that afternoon, and referee the game fairly for both sides, it's all we ask.
The forecast is for rain all day from six o-clock in the morning, with a near certainty that it will be coming down in buckets as the game gets underway. And everyone knows what happens in the rain at Old Trafford...we lift the silverware!
I absolutely can't wait. Neither team really expected to be there, both sides have peaked at the right time, and our Leeds v. Saints traditional SL Grand Final has returned. I'm going to enjoy the game and keep everything crossed that we round off an amazing season with the trophy on the bus back to Headingley.
Travel safe, enjoy the game, and sing your heart out for the lads.