Ratchford lauds Hodgson influence
Stefan Ratchford is set to keep veteran full-back Brett Hodgson out of Saturday's Grand Final but says the wily Australian remains an integral part of Warrington Wolves’ bid for Super League glory.
The 35-year-old Hodgson is being released by the Wolves at the end of the season and, after being left out of their victorious semi-final line-up, is unlikely to get the chance to bow out at Old Trafford.
The versatile Ratchford was preferred by coach Tony Smith against Huddersfield Giants last week and, after producing an impressive display in the 30-22 win, looks sure to keep the spot against Wigan Warriors.
"You never know what Tony is going to do with his team but hopefully I'll get the nod," said Ratchford.
"Hodgy is a quality player and he's helped me enormously with just the little tips that he gives me, both positionally and with my goalkicking. I really appreciate what he's done.
"As gutted as I was for Brett, it gave me an opportunity to play in a semi-final so I couldn't feel too sorry for him."
Hodgson, the 2009 Man of Steel, has been Warrington's regular goalkicker in his three seasons with the club but Ratchford landed five from five attempts against the Giants, including two from the touchline.
"I didn't do too bad last week," he said. "I think it's all about that first kick. If you strike the first one pretty well, the rest tend to follow.
"Brett has really helped me out in that department. Sometimes when you're not kicking well, he'll tell you what to do and how to push through that sticky spell."
Ratchford, who was named in the England Knights squad 24 hours after missing out on World Cup selection, has started matches at stand-off, centre and scrum-half for his club this year but looks set for a regular spot at full-back from 2014.
"That's something I'd welcome but, on the other hand, I don't mind doing the floating stuff and playing a few roles," Ratchford said.
"Tony's not mentioned next year yet. At the moment I'm playing full-back but, come Saturday, I might be playing prop!"
Wigan-born-and-based Ratchford will be firmly in the spotlight at Old Trafford but might be keeping a low profile in the build-up, just to avoid upsetting the neighbours.
"The DW Stadium is two minutes from my house," he said. "I was five minutes away from Central Park and used to go to watch the occasional game there, although I wasn't an avid Wigan fan.
"My friends and neighbours have been saying all year they were hoping it's a Wigan-Warrington final so I think they will be made up.
"I've had a few texts saying they hope I have a good game but that Wigan win - they want the best of both worlds."
Saturday's clash will be the first meeting of the old rivals in a major game since the 1990 Challenge Cup final and Ratchford is expecting a classic.
"No disrespect to Leeds or Huddersfield but this was probably going to be the best final," he said. "I just hope that we don't disappoint on Saturday.
"If you look at the previous games between clubs, they've all been brilliant. The speed and intensity has been top rate and I'm sure Saturday will not be any different."
Athough they have become regular winners at Wembley in recent times, it is 58 years since Warrington last won the league and Ratchford is hoping their defeat in last year's Grand Final will help them finally end that barren run.
"Last year we maybe got a bit overawed at the start of the game," he said.
"We probably took in the atmosphere a bit more than we should have done and didn't really focus as well as we should have.
"We've had that experience now and, come Saturday, we know what's going to come as we head out of the tunnel so we can put that behind us as quickly as possible and get into our normal game."