FROM his vantage point in Billinge, Saints half back Jonny Lomax knows better than most what rugby league’s biggest derby means.

And after a troubled Covid-impacted year the locking of horns between the 13-man code’s oldest foes almost brings a degree of normality to a very uncertain season.

At times this year it seemed unlikely that the season would reach a conclusion - but on Friday night, behind closed doors at the KCOM, Super League’s top two will decide who takes the prize.

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And that is something Lomax, still playing the game with the same smile he had on his face as a junior, is relishing.

Lomax said: “At the end of the day it is what you dream of, playing in the big games – but this one has been much longer in coming to get here.

“At times when we didn’t know whether the season was going to get up and running again, and whether the training we were doing on our own and then in small groups to keep ourselves going was going to be worthwhile.

“To be the two teams in the big dance is good and shows that the hard work has paid off to have a chance in the big one.

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"In some ways the different circumstances add to the Grand Final – we have never found ourselves in this position before as a sport and might never again.”

The former Orrell St James junior, whose first Grand Final was in 2010 against Wigan, was brought up on this rivalry.

“With me being a local lad living on the border in Billinge – where it is a bit 50/50 - you are brought up on the derby.

“It means so much to you and instilled into you from a young age, grandparents and parents.

“The derby runs deep.

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“There is excitement – two big teams in the last game of the season and the main thing is we are a part of it; let’s get excited about it,” he said.

And Saints will go into striving to become back-to-back champions, something they have not done since 2000.

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They also have a score to settle having lost out on the League Leaders Shield.

“We obviously didn’t want to lose to Wigan especially as the League Leaders Shield was decided on that game.

“You never want to lose any game – but it is about learning from reversals and adversity and how you come back.

“That was a great game of rugby for large parts and something we expect again.

“We got done that day and have got to learn from it,” Lomax said.

So the stage is set, maybe not the Theatre of Dreams with thousands of red and white clad hordes blowing on air horns, but a finale in these these tough times is one to be savoured for the players.

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"It is good for the game that we are going to get to an end because they were looking a bit bleak earlier in the year," Lomax said.

"A lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes this season November to November goes unseen. This is probably one of the longest seasons we have been through.

"It has a different feel – but to have a Grand Final at the end of it is great to have because it has meant all the hard work that we have done in lockdown, if you have an end goal, it has all been worthwhile."