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Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Thursday, 30 September 2010 11:00 UK

Challenge Cup exit strengthened Wigan - Michael Maguire

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

Michael Maguire
Maguire led Wigan to the League Leaders' Shield

Michael Maguire has not suffered too many setbacks in his first inspiring season as coach of Wigan Warriors.

But he admits that Wigan's most painful defeat, the Challenge Cup exit at Leeds in May, ended up proving a motivation.

Wigan returned to Leeds last Saturday to exact revenge by winning 26-6 to end the Rhinos' run of Grand Final wins and book Saturday's date with St Helens.

"It hurt, but we got a lot out of the game. It made us stronger as a group," Maguire told BBC Radio Manchester.

"We learned a lot, as we've shown since. And it ended up giving the boys the chance they've got now."

If getting knocked out of the Challenge Cup 12-10 in the dying seconds at Headingley was the lowpoint of Wigan's season, not far behind it was the 26-27 defeat at the DW Stadium which launched the Warriors' play-off campaign three weeks ago.

Kevin Sinfield's late drop goal, coupled with the drama and controversy that followed, leading to Pat Richards' missed penalty with the final kick of the night, was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.

But, just five days later, Wigan showed great spirit to right the ship against Hull KR, then maintained their standards last Saturday evening at Headingley where they produced a defensive display bordering on the heroic to beat Leeds.

It was actually their second win at Headingley this season, having also won there in the league in July. And it deservedly set up the chance of Wigan's first Grand Final triumph since beating Leeds 10-4 in the initial Old Trafford final in 1998.

And Maguire admits that, for all the application his players have put in this season, Saturday night in Manchester is now not just about the season-long consistency that won them the League Leaders' Shield, but about one more big performance.

"It's special to have got through," admits the 36-year-old Australian. "The club have not got to the Grand Final very often.

"But, while we've done a lot of good things this season, it's now all about 80 minutes on Saturday.

"When you're in a Grand Final, there's two teams and it's about how you perform under pressure. Every game is tough. And this one will be no different.

"As a coach, it's now all down to our game plans. But the players have jumped on board with everything we've done this year. They've worked really hard and they've got what they've deserved.

Michael Maguire
Maguire in his days at Canberra, felled by former Wigan favourite Kevin Iro

"It's a great stadium. A place the players are going to relish and we're going into the game with confidence."

Maguire will walk into Old Trafford with head held high, having this week been voted Coach of the Year, part of a clean sweep for Wigan (points machine Richards and Sam Tomkins were also honoured) at Monday night's prestigious Man of Steel awards dinner in Manchester.

Having won his first silverware, Maguire's move from Australia, where he spent his playing days with Canberra Raiders before injury forced him down the coaching route as assistant to Craig Bellamy with Melbourne Storm, has already been a success.

But he admits that winning the League Leaders' Shield even took him by surprise, given where Wigan were at the start of the season, with limited expectations when Maguire inherited essentially the squad, other than Paul Deacon, bequeathed to him by his predecessor Brian Noble.

"I never really had any expectation," said Maguire. "I just thought, if we worked hard, we might get opportunities.

"I'm lucky to have been with a team who have been to Grand Finals before and I'm really looking forward to this opportunity."

Maguire's success in England has twice this season been tinged with bad news from back home, first by the stories that emerged down under about his old club Melbourne Storm being stripped of their titles in April, then when he returned home following the death of his father in July.

But Wigan won all three games they played under Maguire's deputy Shaun Wane - and he is the first to point this out as another example of the spirit his team have shown in adversity.

"My dad was a good mate of mine and will always be thought of," said Maguire.


"It was a tough time for myself, but the players got on and showed what they are about.

"The most pleasing thing was how they performed while I was away. The way they represented the club was outstanding."

Maguire senses the same spirit being tapped into this week, since the tragic demise of Terry Newton.

The late former Wigan and Great Britain forward was in the last Warriors team to reach the Grand Final in 2003, from which Sean O'Loughlin and Deacon (who was on the winning team with the Bulls team that day) will be the only two players still out there on the pitch come Saturday.

"Terry was a great character and a great player," said Maguire. "I'm sure it's in every player's mind. They feel for each other and know what each other goes through. And our thoughts will be there.

"But it's now about what we do on the day."

Meanwhile, the first Saints-Wigan Grand Final in 10 years could be heading for a sell-out.

The Warriors sold out their entire 12,000 ticket allocation inside 48 hours.

Some fans had to queue for four hours when they went on sale to season ticket holders on Sunday. And the 3,000 remaining tickets were snapped up when they went on general sale on Tuesday for supporters eager to see Wigan's first Grand Final appearance in seven years.

"The demand for tickets has been at unprecedented levels," said RFL marketing manager Phil Williams. "Both teams have been starved of the Super League trophy in recent years and are itching to get their hands on it to make up for previous disappointments, so we have the making of an epic encounter."

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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
Richards wins Man of Steel award
27 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Leeds 6-26 Wigan
25 Sep 10 |  My Club
St Helens 42-22 Huddersfield
24 Sep 10 |  My Club
Wigan 42-18 Hull KR
17 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Wigan 26-27 Leeds
12 Sep 10 |  My Club
Leeds 12-10 Wigan
29 May 10 |  Rugby League
Wane to lead Wigan in Leeds clash
28 Jul 10 |  Wigan
Warriors sign up Melbourne trio
19 Jul 10 |  Wigan
Melbourne stripped of NRL titles
22 Apr 10 |  Rugby League
Players eager to learn - Maguire
05 Jul 10 |  Wigan
Wigan coach names leadership team
02 Feb 10 |  Wigan
Wigan 'expect to win' with new coach Maguire
07 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Warriors appoint Maguire as coach
08 Oct 09 |  Wigan

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