Wane out to end Leeds hoodoo
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane will be out for revenge when his table-topping side take on champions Leeds Rhinos in the final match of Super League's Magic Weekend at Manchester's Etihad Stadium tomorrow evening.
It was the Rhinos who dashed Wane's bid for major silverware in 2012, beating them in the semi-finals of both the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final series, and they were the last team to beat them this season.
The Warriors have won their last 10 league and cup matches to strengthen their bid for the double but Wane is still irked by their 18-14 loss at Headingley in March.
"Leeds were the best team," Wane said. "They've been a bit of a bogey team for me in the past two years.
"However, I was very satisfied that we pushed them close with seven players missing and it could have gone either way. Hopefully it will go my way this weekend."
Among the absentees that day was England full-back Sam Tomkins, who has hit a rich vein of form with 24 tries in those 10 matches since and is the man Leeds must stop if they are to avoid a third successive defeat.
"He certainly is a big player," acknowledged Rhinos coach Brian McDermott. "I think Wigan are in far better shape as a team than the last time we played them."
The clash between the champions and the leaders will bring the curtain down on the seventh Magic Weekend.
Widnes Vikings coach Denis Betts, whose side open proceedings against Brian Noble's Salford City Reds, is confident they will be able to erase the memory of their humiliating 68-4 defeat by Warrington Wolves at the Etihad 12 months ago.
"Last year we had a lot of lads who had never been to a stadium as big as the Etihad, never mind played in one, so I think you will see a difference in the way they carry themselves this time around," Betts said.
"It promises to be a great occasion. The stadium is fantastic and hopefully the weather will stay nice for the fans over the whole weekend."
The presence of all 14 clubs on one stage will give Noble the perfect opportunity to cast his eyes over the cream of Super League talent as he prepares to wield the chequebook of ambitious Reds owner Marwan Koukash.
"We get to showcase all our talent over a couple of days," Noble said. "If you're on a scouting mission, it's a dream ticket isn't it?
"The challenge for us is to improve on last week's performance. It's our task to improve our circumstances and get away from the victim aspect of what's been going on and start improving.
"Our practices are improving, our facilities are improving and behind the scenes we're working really hard to improve the club."
In tomorrow's other game, Huddersfield Giants will be looking to avenge their surprise home defeat by Bradford Bulls.
Forward Jacob Fairbank, who played in four of the Giants' first nine games of the season but none since, will get the chance to show coach Paul Anderson what he is missing when he lines up for the Bulls.
The 23-year-old nephew of former Bradford forward Karl Fairbank joined Bradford a week ago on a month's loan and has been permitted to play against his parent club.
"I'd like to think that we're more than capable of handling whatever Bradford throw at us and that includes Bobby," Anderson said.