Maguire targets treble
Wigan Warriors coach Michael Maguire sees no reason why he should not end his two-year reign at the DW Stadium with a clean sweep of the trophies and is hoping his side can take a significant step towards realising that dream tomorrow.
The Warriors will add the League Leaders’ Shield to the Carnegie Challenge Cup if they beat their only rivals Warrington Wolves in front of another sell-out crowd at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
It is five years since St Helens became the last side to complete the treble but Maguire, who is returning to Australia at the end of the season, is confident his side can successfully defend their Engage Super League crown at Old Trafford next month.
“Every group is different,” he said. “They’re very keen for what’s in front of them. We had a taste of Old Trafford and winning the minor premiership last year and they’re in front of us now.
“If we want to go get them, it’s up to us as a group and I know they’re very hungry.”
Maguire admits there were a few hangovers from the team’s weekend celebrations of their Wembley triumph but he is confident his players will have their focus back for tomorrow’s big test.
“I think that is part of the challenge, to get yourself up fresh and ready to go after a big weekend like that,” he said. “But we pretty well moved on after Monday.
“There were a few sore heads and sick stomachs but they jumped into training on Tuesday and worked hard.
“The long week allowed us to have a good recovery so there will be no excuses this weekend. It is important to us to finish top.”
After the play-off format was changed to a top-eight contest in 2009, finishing top no longer carries the same advantage it used to but both coaches insist that will not lessen the incentive.
“It would be nice,” said Warrington boss Tony Smith. “I don’t think there is any greater advantage finishing first or second in terms of how the competition is structured but for a club like us and where we’ve come from, it would be nice recognition.
“We’ve had a pretty good season and it would be nice to get that top spot. It’s not going to make or break our season, though. I think both teams are in good positions to compete for the title, as are a few others.”
Warrington go into tomorrow’s game needing to score just one more point to reach a total of 1,000 for the season and become the eighth side to reach the milestone in the summer era.
Huddersfield Giants will be looking to their reinforcements to help get their season back on track when Harlequins RL visit the Galpharm Stadium tomorrow.
The fourth-placed Giants have faltered badly with just one win from their last five matches but captain Kevin Brown says the return of his half-back partner Danny Brough, along with forwards Keith Mason and Dale Ferguson, will give them a timely boost.
“People are writing us off but I’m really confident in what we are doing,” he said.
“Once we get our combinations set and have a settled team, both myself and the rest of the team believe we can beat any side on any surface.
“We have got quality players coming back in at the right time now and our combinations will be strong.”
Former St Helens and Warrington back row forward Andy Bracek is set to make his Crusaders RL debut in their penultimate match of Super League when they take on Bradford Bulls at Odsal.
Bracek, who has won three caps for Wales, has been out of action for a year with a serious knee injury and, with just two games left, is keen to repay coach Iestyn Harris’ faith in him.
“I’m really pleased to finally be making my debut,” he said. “It’s the longest I’ve gone without playing since I was seven years old.
“It’s almost exactly a year exactly since I last played which is a bit creepy but I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m grateful to Iestyn for bringing me in. I didn’t have a club at the end of the 2010.”
Bracek’s career with the Crusaders will be short-lived as the players prepare to move on following the club’s withdrawal from Super League.
“I have been talking to a few clubs but they want to see me play first,” he added. “Hopefully I can show them what I can do this Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Jarrod Sammut says he intends to make himself available for the Crusaders despite missing training to play for Malta against Norway yesterday.
“It’s entirely a matter for the head coach but clearly he hasn’t trained with the team during their final preparations and he hasn’t kept the club informed of his plans,” said Crusaders chief executive Rod Findlay.
Sammut, who has missed Crusaders’ last three matches through injury, is joining the Bulls next season.