The domestic rugby league season draws to a spectacular conclusion on Saturday evening with the Super League XIX Grand Final from Old Trafford, exclusively live on Sky Sports.
The Grand Final now rivals the Challenge Cup Final as the biggest occasion in club rugby league in the UK and usually provides Sky Sports with the biggest TV audience in its rugby league schedule.
With no Premier League football taking place on Grand Final Saturday this year, the 2014 showpiece promises to be a big draw once again as St Helens take on Wigan Warriors under the floodlights at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’.
Having grown from humble beginnings, the Super League Play-offs and Grand Final are now firmly established as a fitting finale to a gruelling domestic season.
Leeds have dominated this competition over the last seven years, winning the Grand Final five times, while current champions Wigan, who go into Saturday’s final with the chance of securing back-to-back Super League titles, are the only other team to lift the trophy in that time.
The first two seasons of Super League in 1996 and 1997 saw the title simply awarded to the team who finished top of the table, with a short post-season tournament, the Super League Premiership, contested by the final top four teams, regarded as being of secondary importance.
The first Grand Final took place in 1998, with the new format attracting no little controversy, but drew a crowd of 43,533 to Manchester as Wigan beat Leeds 10-4 to win the Super League III championship, with future England rugby union star Jason Robinson scoring their only try of the match.
Wigan return to Old Trafford this year and will face local rival St Helens in the latest running of what some consider to be the biggest derby in rugby league – though don’t expect anybody in Hull to agree.
Wigan arrive in Manchester as the reigning Super League champions, having beating Warrington 30-16 last year to complete the league-and-cup double.
It is the Saints, though, who go into the match having finished top of the Super League table, though only by one point from Saturday’s opponents.
Saints defeated the Catalan Dragons 30-12 in their semi-final at Langtree Park; Wigan, on the other hand, survived a much closer affair as Warrington were beaten 16-12 at the DW Stadium, with a late try by teenage wing sensation Joe Burgess – no relation to the four brothers based in Sydney – taking them to Old Trafford.
St Helens must end an horrendous run in the Grand Final. They won the title in 2006, comfortable beating Hull in the Grand Final, but proceeded to lose in all of the following Grand Finals, including a 22-10 defeat to Wigan in 2010.
The team have surprised many observers by taking rugby league by storm this season, beginning with an authoritative 38-8 win away to local rivals Warrington on the opening weekend of the season.
A narrow win at Leeds on 29 August sealed the League Leader’s Shield, with Castleford and Catalans both convincingly overcome in the play-offs.
The side have unearthed a star of the future in free-scoring wing Tommy Makinson, while England forwards James Roby and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook provide top quality up front.
Another challenging and ultra-competitive Super League season culminates at Old Trafford on Saturday night as the remaining two teams in the running for one of rugby league’s ultimate prizes battle it out at the Theatre of Dreams.
Sky Sports will show every bruising tackle exclusively live on the night while free-to-air highlights follow the next day on BBC Two.
Sky Sports is the only place for rugby league fans to watch the season’s showpiece as it happens as it screens live coverage of the 2014 Super League Grand Final from Old Trafford.
Eddie Hemmings and Mike Stephenson present all the action from the showpiece encounter, which will be available to watch in high-definition on Sky Sports 1 HD, with coverage starting at 5.00pm, ahead of a 6.00pm kick-off.
Further expert analysis and comment throughout the evening comes from Brian Carney, Phil Clarke and Stuart Cummings, while Bill Arthur provide reports and interviews from the touchline.
On the eve of the final itself, Sky Sports will broadcast a special Boots ‘N’ All show from the Man Of Steel awards, which first airs on Sky Sports 2 at 6.30pm, with repeats following at various times.
Then on Saturday, viewers can settle back to watch a full hour-long build-up to English rugby league’s showpiece occasion, featuring special interviews, features and reports from both camps.
Beyond this season, Sky Sports will remain as the home of Super League for at least six more years after a new rights deal was announced at the start of 2014.
Friday 10th October
Boots ‘N’ All Man Of Steel Special
6.30pm-7.30pm Sky Sports 2
Saturday 11th October
Super League Grand Final 2014: St Helens v Wigan Warriors
Kick-off: 18:00 | Old Trafford
LIVE: 5.00pm-8.30pm Sky Sports 1
BBC Sport will broadcast live radio commentary as well as free-to-air TV highlights of the 2014 Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Wigan Warriors.
Tanya Arnold presents highlights on BBC Two and BBC Two HD on Sunday tea-time, with Brian Noble joining her at pitchside for analysis, while match commentary will be provided by Dave Woods, Brian Noble and Jonathan Davies.
The programme will be available to watch on-demand via BBC iPlayer for up to seven days after transmission.
BBC Radio 5 live will have full coverage from Old Trafford following Sports Report at 6.00pm, with George Riley and Stuart Pyke leading the commentary team.
In addition, there will also be live text commentary available via BBC Sport website, along with extensive local radio coverage on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Merseyside.
Sunday 12th October
Rugby League: Super League Grand Final Highlights
5.30pm-6.30pm BBC Two