Super League Grand Final: Charnley’s ‘dream’ Wigan exit & Warrington’s heartbreak

By Phil CartwrightBBC Sport
Willie Isa and Josh Charnley
Josh Charnley (right) signed off from rugby league in style with his 165th try in 176 Wigan appearances

Josh Charnley could not have scripted his farewell from Wigan Warriors any better - scoring the winning try in Saturday's Grand Final victory over Warrington Wolves at Old Trafford.

Prolific winger Charnley is switching codes and will link up with Premiership rugby union side Sale Sharks after helping the Warriors to their fourth Super League title.

"When I said I was leaving, I told them that I wanted some silverware. To finish like this is a dream come true," said the 25-year-old England international after a 12-6 win over the Wolves.

"I just wanted to be part of a winning team. It's going to make it miles harder to leave. I've got a few days with the lads and then I've got to get my thinking boots on and try to learn a new code.

"I'm leaving this family of brothers behind and I'll still go down to watch them when I can."

Charnley's 165th try in cherry and white was set up by a kick from Dan Sarginson - another player who is leaving the Warriors for pastures new.

Versatile Sarginson, who appeared at full-back in the Grand Final, will play for Gold Coast Titans in Australia's National Rugby League in 2017.

"I can't praise 'Sarge' enough," said his Wigan team-mate John Bateman. "We'll miss him so much next year.

"He'll kill it over there and he deserves everything that he's got. We both signed together and it's so good to see how much he's progressed."

Super League Grand Final highlights: Warrington 6-12 Wigan

'We haven't fielded our best team all year'

Numerous injuries that have robbed Wigan of several key players during 2016.

Influential hooker Michael McIlorum broke his ankle playing in the World Club Series in February and was ruled out for the season.

A virus swept through the squad in April and an inexperienced side lost 62-0 at Wakefield.

England full-back Sam Tomkins did not feature until May on his return to Wigan after two seasons in the NRL and a foot injury kept him out of the season's climax. His brother, Joel, was missing from July onwards with a knee problem.

There are plenty of other injury tales to tell. Each week, it appeared that head coach Shaun Wane had a new issue to contend with.

He was able to call upon captain Sean O'Loughlin at Old Trafford, although the England skipper's involvement after a two-month absence was not guaranteed until the day before the Grand Final.

"I'd given up on it a few weeks ago," admitted the 33-year-old forward, who has now captained three Wigan sides to Grand Final victories.

"The conditioner and the physio worked so hard on me to get me onto the pitch, but it wasn't about me.

"It was about what the team had been through all season. We haven't fielded our strongest 17 all year."

Man of the match Liam Farrell added: "When you've got a person like Sean O'Loughlin putting his hand up and saying he's fit to play, how can you turn him down?

"The things he's done over the years have been pretty outstanding. He's always going to turn up and he turned up for us again on Saturday."

More final heartbreak for Warrington

Joe Westerman and Stefan Ratchford
Warrington lost both the Challenge Cup final and the Grand Final this year

Warrington have lost three Grand Finals in five seasons and their defeat by Wigan was their second in a major final in 2016.

The Wolves led in the second half of the Challenge Cup final in August but failed to close out the match against Hull FC, and a similar story was played out against the Warriors.

Tony Smith's side could have ended the campaign as treble winners had events transpired differently at Wembley and Old Trafford. Instead, they must be content with just one trophy - the League Leaders' Shield for finishing top of the Super League table after 30 games.

Full-back Stefan Ratchford said: "If you ask me now, I'm going to say we're really disappointed because we've just lost a Grand Final and we're devastated with that.

"But give it a couple of days and we'll look back - there's been one team that's been in both finals and won the League Leaders' Shield. That's something that we can be really proud of.

"We feel we've come really far as a group this year. The squad's developed and when we reflect we can say it's a pretty successful year for us."

Warrington have not been domestic champions since 1955 and their wait for a league title will go into its 62nd year following Saturday's loss.

Looking ahead to 2017, Ratchford added: "We're quite a young squad. A couple of players will leave and there will be a couple coming in, but there won't be wholesale changes.

"Tasting defeat in two finals is only going to spur us on to having a big pre-season and hopefully going one better next year."

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