Rugby League: Power and the glory for Trinity

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The Independent Online
IT IS not quite true to say, as his Featherstone counterpart, Steve Simms, insists, that Andy Kelly - 6ft 2in his bare feet - is the smallest man at Wakefield Trinity.

But it is size and power, as well as experience, that could give Kelly's Wakefield the edge in the First Division Grand Final at Huddersfield this evening.

The first final of its type is a neat contrast between different styles. "They're a team of giants," said Simms of tonight's opponents and, quite apart from a forceful pack, Trinity have, in Garen Casey, Josh Bostock and Adam Hughes, backs with a physical presence that Featherstone cannot match. "Their strength and size is going to be very daunting for our players."

But it is Rovers' mobility and imagination that has brought them this far and Kelly believes that they deserve to be regarded as favourites.

"We finished on top of the league, but they beat us twice during the season and are coming off the back off a six game winning run," Kelly said.

If knowledge of the demands of play-off rugby is to be decisive, Wakefield have the edge. Their captain, Matt Fuller, has been through that particular mill in Australia. "We are very relaxed, not getting too nervous, and the side that settles the quicker will be the winners," he said.

Shaun Irwin, a 1990 Lions tourist who has more experience at the top level than his Featherstone team-mates, says it is the verve of his young colleagues could be the telling factor. "They're very good. That's why there have been so many Super League clubs knocking on the door. There's some talent at the club and, if we achieve Super League status, we can keep them here," Irwin said.

With a crowd of 10,000 expected and the extra stimulus of local rivalry between communities only six miles apart, it should live up to its billing of A Night To Remember.

It could also be a day to remember for Batley. Trophies have been thin on the ground this century for the first winners of the Challenge Cup, but they have already won one this season and could take another this afternoon.

Batley's first team won the Trans-Pennine Cup for Second Division clubs in July and their reserves today meet St Helens in the final of the Alliance Challenge Cup. Just to get there is a remarkable achievement for a small club, but they face formidable opposition from a particularly strong Saints' side at Mount Pleasant today.

If the crowd there will be numbered in hundreds, the Sydney Football Stadium will be packed for the Grand Final between Brisbane and Canterbury tomorrow.

Canterbury have been an inspiration to all sides coming through the field with a late surge. They finished ninth in the league table, but have shown tremendous resilience in the play-offs, coming from behind to beat both Newcastle and Parramatta in extra time. Facing a side as talented as the Broncos, however, could be a case of a match too far.

Canterbury's much-travelled stand-off, Scott Wilson, is not wanted for the Grand Final and makes his debut for Warrington, against Wigan, instead.

With play-off places decided, tomorrow's final Super League matches are largely meaningless, although Leeds' match at Halifax is an intriguing dress rehearsal for their semi-final next week. Leeds have tracked down their missing signing, Lee Jackson, whose flight from Australia was delayed, but he is not expected to play this season.