MATTY Lees hopes to leave Mikolaj Oledzki looking almost as bewildered after Old Trafford defeat as he did thousands of miles away.
The St Helens and Leeds props will go head-to-head after the three-times champions defeated Salford 19-12 to join the Rhinos at Saturday’s Grand Final.
It is the first time in 11 years the clubs will have met in the showpiece but so far, the scoreline in clashes reads Leeds 4 Saints 0.
And Lees hopes to leave his former England Knights colleague looking as blank as he did when they toured Papua New Guinea together.
The St Helens man recalled: “Mikolaj and I played together at Under-16 level and went on a tour to PNG in 2018.
“Me coming from Rochdale and Mikolaj being born in Poland, it was tough but we enjoyed it and have done well off the back of it.
“There were times when we looked at things thinking, ‘What the hell is going on?’
“It was certainly an experience I won’t forget. Going there was something special, especially as a 20-year-old.
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“But Leeds will try and get at us through the middle. They’ve just as good players like Mikolaj and Matt Prior – they’re going to be coming after us.
“And a lot of people want to be where we are and we’re protecting that. We try as hard as we can to stay there and protect that top spot.”
St Helens boss Kristian Woolf insisted Grand Finals are not normal but for Lees, four in a row means that is exactly what it is becoming.
At the age of just 24, this is third straight and just like his coach, who heads back to Australia after World Cup commitments with Tonga, he is aiming for a personal hat-trick.
But while they may be used to the biggest of stages, a packed Old Trafford with silverware on the line will be regarded the same as a mid-season clash at Wakefield.
Thinking back to the days he wondered if he would ever play again after suffering a ruptured bowel, ironically in a game against Leeds, also helps.
Lees added: “We definitely don’t take it for granted that we’re going to get to the Grand Final – there are a lot of games to get through first.
“Our main aim was winning that League Leaders’ Shield. We got that and hopefully we can kick on now.
“The mentality stays the same, wherever and whenever the game is, and that’s why we are where we are – to get that League Leaders’ you’ve got to treat every game like it’s a final.
“At the time of my injury, I was thinking I’d never play again but to come back off the back of something no-one had ever heard of and getting back to winning the Grand Final is something really special.”
Lees’ role in Saints’ side has grown after Alex Walmsley’s foot injury ruled him out – now he is a leader of the pack.
But ahead of the Grand Final, he is ready to shoulder that responsibility, further writing his name into the folklore of his hometown of Rochdale.
He said: “I’ve enjoyed having that leading role. Al’s a massive player for us but I’ve hit 100 games this year, which is a big thing for me at this club.
“James Roby will always be pack leader but I’d like to think I’m becoming one of our leading front rowers and I want to try and push for that top spot.
“I’m really looking forward to this one and the more trophies I get, the better. Putting Rochdale on the map.”
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