McDermott and Maguire prepare for battle
The two most recent Super League champions - and their two intense coaches - go toe-to-toe on Saturday for rugby league's most coveted trophy.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson attended Wigan training on Wednesday as Maguire finalised his preparations for Wembley.
The Australian is renowned for his attention to detail and the work ethic he has instilled in the Super League champions. If any of his players were in any doubt as to the magnitude of the occasion, they are not now. I'm told Ferguson gave them a big lift.
Maguire is the kind of man who will turn to the great Sir Alex for an extra edge. His attention to detail will involve replaying every part of a game in which he saw a weakness and repeating the drill at training until he is happy with the amendment.
McDermott can favour shock tactics of a different kind. He cancelled his side's pre-season warm-weather training camp in Cyprus and took them to a hostel in north Yorkshire. His approach at former club Harlequins was similar.
The Quins boys tell me how McDermott reacted to one disappointing home defeat at the start of last season by making the players train in the dark, straight after the game.
Having expected to be at home with their families, every single player in the squad was crawling through a muddy assault course and repeating a series of tackling drills on each other. This was then repeated at 6am the following morning. The smell of the training gear afterwards still haunts them.
Both coaches are young. At 41, McDermott has the experience of playing in and winning a final for Bradford against Leeds. The 37-year-old Maguire's only experience of the final came last year, when his chairman, Ian Lenagan, took him to Wembley to familiarise himself with an occasion in which he would take centre stage just 12 months later.
Both coaches have also attracted criticism, Maguire for introducing a perceived negative defensive breed of rugby league into the British game, while McDermott has mostly received flak from his own fans throughout an indifferent Rhinos season.
Richards tells me Maguire is the best coach he has worked for. "He is very particular," says Richards. "His work ethic is second to none and his hard work has changed the mentality at Wigan. In his first training session, he sent us out for a three-mile run and we repeated it the next day. We were a little shell-shocked but he has done a great job."
Maguire is the kind of coach who feels every tackle and takes every carry during a game, in much the same way that Ferguson can be seen levering himself off the bench to head a ball when he watches United put over a cross.
McDermott, who is just as intense and instils the same kind of work ethic as Maguire at Leeds, has been likened to the hugely successful football manager Guus Hiddink by former Quins charge Dorn. "He will come in a pick up a team and improve, just as Hiddink did at Chelsea," says Dorn. "The problem he had at Quins was that period of adversity was prolonged so we hit a dead end."
McDermott is also a coach who focuses on his own motivational speeches. But do the players, in their own zone in final dressing-room moments before walking out to Wembley, even hear what the coach has to say?
"Yes, you do listen to it," says Sinfield. "The coach is very important, even though you are focused and going through your own mental preparation.
Every coach has valuable words to say, sometimes at the start of the week, or just seconds before you go out. Mac normally comes out with something pretty special. I don't think he'll be trying too hard to inspire or motivate, though, as the final does that for itself."
Richards describes Maguire as "laid back but with a temper". If you step out of line, he makes sure you know. "He moans when it is warranted and there are no mind games. We all know where the line is - and if we step over it we are out of the team." Richards says the Australian is a good man-manager and tries to get to know the players socially while maintaining the professional barriers.
Refreshingly, neither coach will be using the "it's just another match" cliche in keeping his players focused on the prize. They realise what is at stake. Maguire has encouraged every Wigan player to soak up an opportunity that does not come around often.
McDermott himself told me this week: "It is absolutely not any other game. It is the biggest fixture on the calendar and up there with any sporting pinnacle."
So what about the men themselves? What will their approaches be, and how will they deal with the occasion?
Maguire admits he will be nervous and excited. He will, however, be safe in the knowledge that if his overwhelming favourites produce their trademark watertight defence at Wembley, then there is little chance they will lose.
McDermott says he won't sleep the night before. "Someone might have to tap me on the shoulder and give me a reality check to remind me I'm at Wembley," he says. "There's a fair chance I'll miss the occasion as I'll be too caught up in it. So I do hope I get to bask in the Wembley experience as I'm humbled to be there."
The Leeds coach disagrees when I suggest the Rhinos require something special to win. In fact, he disagrees quite passionately.
"Emotions, nerves, over-reactions and under-reactions all fly about on game day," he comments. "It doesn't come down much to tactics or a gameplan in a final. It's just about being a good team for long periods on the day. We will need to be good but we need to be wary about seeing it as a Mount Everest."
When it comes to those final pre-match moments, you can expect Maguire to be calmer than the animated McDermott, who jokes: "I'll kick a few ice buckets, put a few videos on and do a bit of shadow boxing in the background."