About bloody time!

It’s taken them don­key’s years but Kurt Gi­d­ley & Ash­ton Sims make a grand fi­nal at last

Rugby League Week - - Super League - BY PHIL WILKIN­SON

KURT GI­D­LEY WAS ONLY 13 when he re­alised Old Traf­ford was such a big deal.

Hav­ing flown to Eng­land with his par­ents to watch brother Matt play for the Aus­tralian School­boys, they spent a day vis­it­ing the home of Manch­ester United.

This week­end he’ll re­turn to the The­atre of Dreams – a venue where soc­cer greats Best, Beck­ham and Ron­aldo cast their lega­cies – in the hope of guid­ing War­ring­ton to a maiden grand fi­nal tri­umph.

“It’s one of the most iconic sta­di­ums in the world, and amaz­ing to think I’ll be play­ing there,” of­fers the for­mer Knights cap­tain, speak­ing to RLW in a ho­tel con­fer­ence room across the road from Old Traf­ford.

“Ev­ery day a whole heap of peo­ple come here to do tours – I re­mem­ber do­ing the same with my par­ents in ’95 when I was a kid.

“I just re­mem­bered think­ing it was im­mersed in his­tory, the pitch didn’t have a blade of grass out of place . . . to get the op­por­tu­nity to play here, 21 years later, is huge.”

War­ring­ton booked their place in the Su­per League show­case with a gutsy, if controversial, 18-10 vic­tory against St He­lens in the semis.

The win came just a month af­ter a Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal loss at Wembley, and a week af­ter they clinched the mi­nor pre­mier­ship – a healthy re­turn of big games for Gi­d­ley, who’d spent 15 years at home­town club New­cas­tle with­out any suc­cess.

“I de­buted in ’01 but didn’t play in the grand fi­nal – I got a medal but I wasn’t a part of it,” he says.

“When I de­cided to come to the UK, I wanted to come to a strong club and a pro­fes­sional club – and I’ve got that.

“Ev­ery­thing has been great, on and off the field . . . al­though the English boys tell me it’s been the best sum­mer in years, so I think I timed it right!

“It’s been a strong year. The league lead­ers’ [shield] was a great achieve­ment. It was dis­ap­point­ing to lose the Chal­lenge Cup but the big­gest prize is the grand fi­nal.”

An­other Aus­tralian is look­ing to claim his first piece of sil­ver­ware af­ter a long, bar­ren run in the NRL.

“It’s been a long wait, 14 sea­sons

“It’s been a long wait, 14 sea­sons for me” – Ash­ton Sims

for me,” says for­mer Dragon, Bronco and Cow­boy Ash­ton Sims. “It’s my first grand fi­nal and it’s an un­be­liev­able feel­ing – but we’ve still got 80 min­utes to go be­fore I get too sen­ti­men­tal.”

War­ring­ton are seek­ing their first ti­tle tri­umph of the Su­per League era, hav­ing lost in their two grand fi­nal ap­pear­ances in 2012 and ’13. In the last decade, only three clubs – St He­lens, Leeds and Wi­gan – have taken the sil­ver­ware.

“It’d be good for the sport to have a new name win it,” coach Tony Smith says. “But we’ve got to earn that right.” They face a de­pleted but in-form Wi­gan side, who fin­ished sec­ond on the lad­der, in a re­peat of the 2013 de­cider.

Shaun Wane’s War­riors over­came Hull FC 28-18 in a thrilling semi­fi­nal last week­end. An­thony Gelling pounced for the match-seal­ing try.

“To get the try to send us to Old Traf­ford was a wicked feel­ing,” says the Kiwi cen­tre.

“The group we have, we de­serve to win it. We’ve been con­sis­tently good ev­ery year. Other teams like Saints and Leeds, they have a year off – but we’ve stuck with it and con­sis­tently been up there, through all the in­juries, and we want the sil­ver­ware to re­flect it.”

OLD TRAF­FORD HERE WE COME! Kurt Gi­d­ley and Ash­ton Sims have booked their tick­ets to the The­atre of Dreams.

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