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Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Friday, 1 October 2010 09:59 UK

Saints' Mick Potter keen to exit with Grand Final win

Venue: Old Trafford Date: Saturday, 2 October Kick-off: 1800 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website and Sky Sports 2, highlights on BBC2 on Sunday

Mick Potter
Saints coach Mick Potter took over at Knowsley Road for the 2009 season

There will be a fair few fond farewells said at Old Trafford on Saturday evening when Keiron Cunningham calls time on his long, illustrious career.

But the St Helens skipper is not Saints' only Grand Finalist involved in his final game for the club.

Matt Gidley, Bryn Hargreaves and Matty Smith are also set to bow out, along with Saints coach Mick Potter.

And, having ended up empty-handed last season, this is Potter's last chance to leave Saints with some silverware.

"I'm sad to be leaving," said Bradford-bound Potter, as he bids to avoid a Grand Final defeat for the second successive year - and an ignominious exit at the hands of Saints' great rivals Wigan.

"The players have done well this season to get to where they are and the icing on the cake would be to go one stage further and win the final.

"Wigan are tough to beat and difficult to score against and we need to be just as difficult to score against too.

"That means our discipline and kicking game needs to be spot on. But we've had to dig deep in the last three games when we defended well against both Warrington and Huddersfield. And we're confident."

If the mild-mannered Australian's team do fail on Saturday, then Potter will still have taken Saints to two successive Grand Finals - no mean feat for any coach.

But, in his two years since arriving from Catalans Dragons, the 47-year-old former full-back from Parramatta, New South Wales, has inevitably suffered in comparison to his immediate predecessors - fellow Aussies Ian Millward and Daniel Anderson.

And, at the end of an era at Knowsley Road, he could not be blamed if he already had one eye on Bradford next season - and how to fatten up some hungry Bulls after a couple of lean years at Odsal.

Already, Bradford, desperate to improve after the disastrous run of 12 straight defeats that blighted the second half of their season, have signed nine new players for next season, despite the fact that their new coach is still in his old job.

But that is now a regular scene in modern-day rugby league.

And, although St Helens' loss could easily prove Bradford's gain in 2011, Potter makes it clear that he still has unfinished business with Saints this Saturday night at Old Trafford.

"I've got a new challenge at Bradford from November," he told BBC Radio Merseyside. "I'm looking forward to starting at Bradford but I have still got a little bit of work to do here first."

And first and foremost will be getting one last performance out of his Saints players - especially the ones following him out of the exit door.

Take his scrum-half Matty Smith, called back from loan at Salford to end his time at his home-town club with three key play-off matches as he again deputises for the injured Kyle Eastmond.

I'm sure this is going to be one of his biggest and best games and I'm really looking forward to seeing him play

St Helens coach Mick Potter on Keiron Cunningham

"It's a fairytale for him," said Potter. "He's playing at Old Trafford. It might never happen again in his career and he's grabbed his chance with open arms."

Then there is Saints' other, more illustrious home-town departee, the already legendary Cunningham, who has marked his last three games for Saints with tries and is surely destined to go out with a bang.

"He's seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," said Potter. "It's getting bigger and bigger and he's sprinting for it.

"He's been great to coach, he's a great person to know and he's still showing what a quality player he is.

"I'm sure this is going to be one of his biggest and best games and I'm really looking forward to seeing him play."

The same goes for prop Hargreaves, who will be following Potter to Odsal.

"There will be a real battle in the middle," predicted Potter. "And I think our blokes can get the better of them. Our pack enjoys that sort of contest.

"You have Hargreaves and James Graham up against Andy Coley and Stuart Fielden.


"Then you have Cunningham and James Roby up against Michael McIlorum and Mark Riddell.

"That is where games are won and lost. There will be no inch given by either team.

"There'll be some heavy contact and I'm looking forward to watching it.

"I wouldn't like to be caught in the middle of Old Trafford on Saturday."

Add to that the unexpected return from injury of centre Sia Soliola, who was expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn knee ligament in March, just two games into his Saints career.

The New Zealand international has already proved a key man in the play-off wins over Warrington and Huddersfield. And Potter admitted: "He's going well isn't he?

"He is a big player and a pleasure to coach. He enjoys playing, likes defending and tackling too so I'm sure the opposition won't be running at him either."

That is more than enough to get Potter's juices flowing as he hopes to motivate his men sufficiently to calm a few nerves.

"Once the bus gets close, that's when the nerves start to hit," he said. "But they're a good thing.

"It helps motivate and stimulate you for the big occasion. I hope my players are nervous. If not, they won't be stimulated to do their best."

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see also
Super League Show
17 Feb 08 |  Rugby League
St Helens 10-22 Wigan Warriors
02 Oct 10 |  My Club
Cup exit made us strong - Maguire
30 Sep 10 |  Wigan
Hail King Keiron
30 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Fairytale Saints finale for Smith
30 Sep 10 |  St Helens
It's winner takes all - Wellens
28 Sep 10 |  St Helens
Cunningham revels in winning try
25 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
St Helens 42-22 Huddersfield
24 Sep 10 |  My Club
Super League play-off verdict
25 Sep 10 |  My Club
St Helens opt for Giants play-off
19 Sep 10 |  St Helens
St Helens 28-12 Warrington
10 Sep 10 |  My Club
Potter to quit Dragons for Saints
22 Apr 08 |  Rugby League

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