Super League final four has a familiar look to it
So here we go.
Four teams are bidding for two places in the Super League Grand Final. And yet again it is the familiar faces fighting the business end of the rugby league year.
The final four comprises the two best sides over the regular season and last year's two Grand Finalists. We appear set for a fitting finale and potentially a dramatic denouement.
Wigan and St Helens are the sides with home advantage after a week off. And it is the Warriors who have chosen to play Leeds Rhinos, sending Warrington Wolves to Saints.
Wigan and Leeds have already squared off in the Challenge Cup semi-finals this season. Photo: Getty
Wigan remain favourites to go all the way having finished top of the pile after 27 weeks, a massive 10 points clear of Leeds. Challenge Cup winners Warrington saw their hopes diminish with a surprise opening-week loss at home to Saints and, after hammering Hull, must now win at Langtree Park to avoid falling just short again.
Shaun Wane's Wigan had this year's dubious Club Call honour. As highest-ranked qualifiers from week one, they chose to play Leeds, rather than the Wolves. It was the obvious call to make, but I'm sure few people at Wigan were keen to announce that they wanted to play the defending champions.
The Club Call element of the play-offs remains a somewhat derided gimmick. For those who are afforded the privilege, it can prove a double-edged sword, too, given the added incentive it provides their opponents to prove them wrong.
There will also be a bit more spice after Wane commented publicly on half-back Danny McGuire's high tackle at Catalan Dragons last week. McGuire was, as expected, suspended for this weekend's crucial fixture, but Leeds coach Brian McDermott and his captain, Kevin Sinfield, feel Wane was wrong to comment on the case before it had been heard.
McDermott feels the disciplinary system itself needs looking at anyway. He believes incidents where there is a perceived lack of malice need to be judged differently.
The performance in Perpignan has given McDermott's side the chance to rescue another disjointed season with an unexpected Old Trafford run. Leeds seem to thrive in the end-of-season adversity they create for themselves, while Saints, too, have the knack of knowing how to get to a Grand Final.
Wigan and Warrington, for all their regular-season dominance of the last two years, do not have that. And that is what makes this final four so appetising. If this was the middle of the season, I'd expect Wigan to wallop Leeds and Warrington to win at Saints.
In three fixtures between Saints and Warrington this year, the home side has never won. But it isn't the middle of the season. It is knockout football, the intensity and sudden-death nature of which produces all manner of unexpected plays, panics, adrenalin rushes and emotions for the 34 players on the pitch.
Next week also sees Super League's most influential player of the year crowned at the Man of Steel awards. After being controversially pipped by Rangi Chase last year, Sam Tomkins is again the frontrunner in a three-man shortlist.
The England full-back is up against two of his international team-mates in Saints hooker James Roby and Warrington forward Ben Westwood.
Roby is a hugely popular and respected figure amongst Super League players, while Westwood's tireless and fearless performances in a variety of positions for Warrington make this a shortlist that few would disagree with.
But his outstanding performances this season and his apparent increased maturity on and off the field make Tomkins a big favourite.
Finally this week, a few words for the family and friends of Terry Newton who would have loved to see two of his former clubs Wigan and Leeds go at it this weekend. Two years ago this week, we lost one of Britain's best rugby league players in tragic circumstances.
The sport has not forgotten Tez and programmes such as State of Mind have started work to improve the mental health of those involved within the game and alter perceptions and enhance understanding of mental illness.