Grand Final: Castleford v Leeds key battles

5 October 2017, 15:29

Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos are set to go head to head In Saturday's Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Leeds are appearing in a record-equalling 10th Grand Final, while for Castleford it will be their maiden outing in the season finale.

With two clubs at either end of the Grand Final experience spectrum, which players will be key to securing victory? Here are three key battles:

Michael Shenton v Kallum Watkins

Will Michael Shenton become the first Castleford captain to taste league title success? The centre has led the side all season in fine fashion, contributing immensely himself and resulting in Dream Team recognition for 2017.

Shenton has six tries to his name, but he has been one of the Tigers' chief creators too, providing 19 try assists and helping Greg Eden notch up score after score.

A strong runner, the skipper has carried 234 times for 1,719 metres at an average gain of 7.35m per drive. And on Saturday, Shenton will be aiming for redemption.

He featured in the 2011 Grand Final for St Helens against Leeds, scoring a try to put his side 16-8 ahead. But Shenton then suffered an elbow injury and Saints went on to lose. Will he have more luck come Saturday night?

Kallum Watkins could well be lining up with Shenton in the centres for England at World Cup time. The Leeds back is a regular at international level and has proven quality, especially at breaking a game. He has scored 12 tries this season, providing eight assists as well.

Watkins' class often makes him a marked man; indeed he has only made nine clean breaks this season. In comparison, he made 30 in the treble-winning season of 2015. His 2,604 metres in 2017 have only come at an average of 6.94m per drive too.

But Watkins possesses the turn of pace or the ability to produce a deft piece of skill to turn a game on its head. He set up Danny McGuire in the 2015 Grand Final with a break and inside pass and Castleford will need to keep a close eye on the centre come Saturday.

Luke Gale v Danny McGuire

2017 Man of Steel - Luke Gale. It will certainly look good on the mantlepiece for the Castleford half-back when he hangs up his boots, but it will be a little bittersweet if his side fail to win on Saturday. And given Gale's star performances this season, he holds the key to that victory.

The former Leeds youth team player deserves his award after a breathtaking campaign. Gale controls the way this Castleford side plays, kicking them round the pitch and also directing play from hand too, contributing the most Cas try assists in 2017 with 20. He has got an eye for the line himself too, crossing 13 times in the campaign, notching an important one against St Helens in the semi-final.

Then there is his nerve... Gale held it twice against the Saints, ice-cool blood running through his veins as he saved the Tigers' season, first with a penalty to send it to a golden point, before dropping the goal that fired Cas to Old Trafford. He will need all that courage again on Saturday.

It is hard to picture a Leeds side without Danny McGuire. He has been a mainstay of the side since 2003, a try-scoring, try-assisting sensation that will go down as a club legend, alongside fellow departing star Rob Burrow. But McGuire will be aiming to go out with a final piece of silverware to his name.

The captain is crucial to his side's chances too; his 24 try assists are eight more than any other team-mate and the second best in the competition, behind Wigan's George Williams. That sort of game-breaking ability is not easily taught, as highlighted by McGuire setting up Anthony Mullally's try in the nail-biting win over Hull FC in the semi-final.

The half-back certainly has Grand Final pedigree. He scored the match-winner in 2004 against Bradford to end 32 years of hurt, crossed twice in the 2008 victory over St Helens and won the Harry Sunderland man-of-the-match award for another two-try display against Wigan in 2015. Is there one final farewell performance in McGuire's locker?

Paul McShane v Matt Parcell

How Paul McShane would love to get one over his former club. He did not quite make the grade with the Rhinos and they let him leave for Wakefield in 2014 before he moved on to Castleford. And they must regret that decision.

McShane sets the tempo for Castleford's play, he is all hustle and bustle and certainly has an eye for a game-breaking pass, providing 19 try assists, level with Michael Shenton and only behind Luke Gale in the Cas ranks.

McShane certainly is not afraid to muck in either. He is the Tigers' top tackler with 898 hits so far, over 100 more than the next best, Adam Milner. And despite only scoring three tries this season, do not give him space near the line from dummy half. The hooker is more than capable of exploiting it. Will he get one over his former club?

What a revelation Matt Parcell has been for the Leeds Rhinos. Manly fans were disappointed when the hooker headed to Super League for 2017, and almost a year on, it is easy to see why. Leeds' only Dream Team inclusion, Parcell's stats for the season are phenomenal.

He is the club's top tryscorer with 17, is second on the assists chart with 16 and also tops the tackle charts with 1,018 hits so far. Parcell adds pace and direction from dummy half, running 190 times from the ruck, only less than James Roby and Kruise Leeming in the whole of Super League.

He has added so much to Brian McDermott's side in both attack and defence and the Rhinos need another big performance from him come Saturday night.

Jon Snow Game of Thrones

Jon Snow's REAL Identity Was Actually Revealed Way Back In Season 3 Of Game Of Thrones & We Reckon You Probably Missed It

Snapchat Accounts Ariana Kim K Rita Ora

80+ Of The Biggest Celebrities You Really NEED To Add On Snapchat Today

Capital Metadata - Capital App March 2017

Want To Control The Music On Capital? Now You Can With Our New App - My Capital!