TO say that last weekend’s Super League semi final eliminators were dramatic would be a huge understatement.
I thought the Warrington v Leeds match on Friday evening was fantastic – at one stage when the teams were locked at 24 apiece with only a few minutes remaining, I was convinced that it would come down to a sudden death golden point.
That was until Leeds were awarded a penalty, and the reliable boot of Kevin Sinfield booked their place in Saturdays Grand Final.
Less than 24 hours later it was our turn to provide the entertainment.
Saints v Wigan derbies this season have always been very intense, and given the quality that both teams have, it is easy to see why.
After winning at Wigan two weeks earlier, we knew that they were going to come and play with plenty of aggression and energy.
Therefore, as a group, we realised we also had to improve on our efforts from our last outing.
I was delighted for the team, and our supporters, that we could get the victory and advance to another Grand Final.
We again had some monumental individual performances.
When you play in big games you need your forward pack to play physically, and I thought our guys did exactly that.
Sia Soliola and James Roby were again brilliant – they carried the ball strongly and tackled hard.
I feel I should reserve special mention though for James Graham.
When Jammer announced earlier in the season that he would be leaving at the end of the year, he went on record stating he would continue to give his all for the club.
I don’t think for one second that anyone would have doubted that. In my experience, it is very easy to say something, but there always comes a time when you have to back up your words with actions and Jammer has done this.
His will to win is infectious, his work-rate phenomenal and, although he is a little bit crazy, he is fantastic to play alongside.
His performance was one of his best in a Saints shirt.
n BOTH Leeds and ourselves have had similar seasons when you take into account the disruption with injuries and the adversities faced throughout the year.
I don’t think that at the start of the play-off series, many would have predicted a St Helens v Leeds Grand Final, and it goes to show the importance of being able to find your best displays for the end of the year.
We now have to make sure we prepare as well as we have been doing in recent weeks for what will be a really tough game.
From our point of view, it is about performing the best we can, and we take a lot of confidence into the game from consecutive wins over last seasons champions.
I mentioned a few weeks ago how important the preparation for big games is, and I believe the way we have performed in our last two games is largely down to making sure we are individually prepared for what you need to contribute to a team performance.
n ONE of our younger players who has had a great season this year is Lee Gaskell, but what many may not know about him is that he is one of the most laid-back people you could ever meet.
He has got the nickname The Corpse off the lads, as some days you struggle to find any signs of life.
A few of lads reckon that his girlfriend has a defibrillator on hand in a morning as the only way to get him out of bed.
Gasky is learning to drive, and is very close to taking his test – apparently his driving instructor is the only one ever to have to use jump leads on one of his clients.
With some other lads, I am wary of taking the mickey out of them and quite often expect some retaliation – but not with Gasky.
He will certainly think about getting me back, then decide he can’t be bothered.
But he’s a great lad, and has been great to have around this year, even if he seems semi-conscious most of the time.
Finally, a massive thank you to our fans, who have been right behind us in 2011. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.
All the best – Wello