Written by John Davidson
St Helens will field its strongest forward pack possible with Alex Walmsley and James Graham to take the field in the Super League grand final on Friday night.
Walmsley struggled with a leg problem against Catalans on Friday while Graham was knocked out.
But Saints coach Kristian Woolf has confirmed that Walmsey is fit to play and Graham, in his last ever game of rugby league, is fully expected to pass the protocols to allow him to feature at the KCOM Stadium.
“He’ll be fine. We’re very sure he’ll be right to play,” Woolf said.
Graham is calling time on a career that has seen him enjoy successful spells both in Super League and the NRL.
Woolf has been impressed by the prop’s contribution in both hemispheres.
“He’s a bloke that gives you absolutely everything,” he said.
“He’s loved over there as well, probably as much as over here. He made a big impact when he came to Australia – the energy and the passion and the aggression, the finger-waving with referees.”
Forward Zeb Taia is also hanging up his boots after Friday’s decider.
“Zeb Taia has been a big player for this club,” Woolf said.
“We’d love to send them both off in a special way.”
2000, the first Grand Final where @Saints1890 & Warriors went head-to-head 👀💪
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) November 24, 2020
Woolf has led St Helens to a grand final in his maiden season, after taking over from Justin Holbrook at the end of 2019.
The Australian is excited about the chance to seal back-to-back trophies for the Red V.
“It’s great, it’s outstanding to have the opportunity,” the 45-year-old said.
“Anytime you’re playing in grand final is a great occasion. I’ve learnt about the rivalry and the respect that’s there between the two teams and it certainly adds the occasion.”
Super League was cut short in mid-March because of Covid-19 and only restarted in early August. Players and clubs have been forced to continue through an arduous scheduled and Woolf praised those involved.
“Super League do deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve kept the competition together,” he said.
“The players deserve all the credit we can give them. They’ve done a great job.
“This will be a really remembered grand final. This is a way to say thank you to the fans, both clubs will want to do that. There will be no lack of desire.”