Super League Grand Final: Can Leicester's 5,000-1 fairytale inspire Warrington?

Leicester City

If you’re going to take inspiration from any fairytale story – sport or otherwise – in the past decade, then Leicester City’s against-all-the-odds Premier League success is a good place to start.

The Foxes, who had just about squeaked clear of relegation the previous season, outstripped giants such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal to win the title.

No surprises then, that Warrington Wolves head coach Steve Price has tried to tap into that success in the build-up to Saturday’s Super League Grand Final against Wigan Warriors.

“I happened to get Kasper Schmeichel in last week, the goalkeeper from Leicester City,” Price told BBC Sport.

“They were raging 5,000-1 underdogs when they were fortunate to win the Premier League, and we’re in a similar position on Saturday.”

Denmark international Schmeichel’s contribution, which came before the semi-final against St Helens, proved a good luck charm for the Wire as they won 18-13 to reach Old Trafford.

Kasper Schmeichel tweet

Should Warrington triumph in Manchester, it would be their first championship win in 63 years and end a run of three defeats in the end-of-term showpiece.

It would also mean a new moniker on a Super League trophy which has just four names etched on it in 20 years of history.

Against the odds

Price’s achievement in getting Warrington to two finals in 2018 might not quite have been at such wide odds as Leicester’s triumph, but it follows a similar theme.

The Wire found themselves in the Qualifiers last season after limping through the 2017 campaign, before securing their Super League status.

Long-serving coach Tony Smith departed the Halliwell Jones Stadium after a hugely successful eight-year spell, and former St George Illawarra coach Price took the reins.

Fast forward some 37 games and Warrington have already been in one final – which ended in Challenge Cup defeat by Catalans – and are preparing for a second on the most prestigious night of the rugby league year.

Price added: “When I first arrived I didn’t know any of my staff. I knew three players I think it was, and it’s a credit to the owner Simon Moran and [chief executive] Karl Fitzpatrick for believing in me, and to the players for adapting to change.

“They’re the ones who are putting their bodies on the line week in week out. This is game 37 and we’ve used about 24 players to date, it’s credit to our head of performance Jon Clarke who’s done an outstanding job.

“You could say it’s a season to be proud of, but it won’t be if we don’t win on Saturday.”

‘It’s about enjoying the week’

Mike Cooper (foreground) stands dejected after Warrington's Wembley defeat by Catalans

With one final already banked, Warrington are wary of the difficulties of managing the excitement and nerves which are generated in the week before the game.

Media responsibilities, training and travel all come into the equation for a coach in balancing players’ moods throughout a Grand Final week.

“There’s a lot of time in the week, until we play, for players to think,” Price added.

“I’m very fortunate to have coached in some big games and I’d like to think I can use that experience to our advantage.

“We have a number of players who have played in these games, I’d like to think we can draw on that experience and take out things we have learned which we haven’t done so well.”

‘It’s good to visualise the game’

Price has not only brought in personalities from other sports in his mission to turn Warrington from Grand Final bridesmaids into brides after their Old Trafford losing run.

He is open to different inspirational methods, including mental preparation, to get himself in the zone for the game.

“It’s not something I teach my players about – visualisation – but I do it myself in a manner which I can control through the week,” Price said.

“It’s good to visualise the game, but it’s really all about the intricacies – being able to go out there and replicate what you’ve worked on, I’m big on that.

“We’ll give the players the best tools during the week with the gameplan and preparation. Come Saturday, they’ll be ready to go.”

‘It’s the Theatre of Dreams’

During his time in charge of St George Illawarra and now with Warrington, the New South Welshman has coached at some of the most iconic stadiums in his native Australia and now in the United Kingdom.

Saturday will be his first outing at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.

“It’s up there, I’m very fortunate to have coached at Wembley and ANZ Stadium but this is certainly one of the best stadiums in the world.

“It’s the Theatre of Dreams, this is where it all happens. We’re 80 minutes from creating history.”

While the 40-year-old is impressed by Old Trafford, it is the other half of Manchester that has Price’s loyalties at heart.

The Blue watched his first Wembley game when City played Arsenal in the Community Shield, and gets to games when time allows.

“I’m a City fan, big fan of Pep Guardiola, and I like the way they play,” he continued.

“They play fast and move the ball around, it’s been really refreshing.”

Mutual respect

Steve Price

When Price leads Warrington out of the corner tunnel at Old Trafford on Saturday (13 October), the man next to him – Shaun Wane – will be making the journey for the very last time.

Wane is off to a job with Scotland Rugby Union, and has earned the respect of his opposite number with his work this season.

“He’s a really genuine bloke who I reckon I’d really enjoy having a beer with,” Price said.

“I’ve a huge respect for Shaun, and his club, how they’ve been very consistent for a long time.

“But come Saturday the gloves will be off, and we’ll be throwing everything into it.”

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BBC Sport – Rugby League

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