Any notions that St Helens players are in Australia for a holiday were immediately dispelled when the team belted out their version of When the Saints Go Marching In after last week’s “trial” win in Wollongong.
This isn’t a team that has flown halfway across the world to simply make up the numbers with $100,000 on offer.
They are here to prove a point with everything on the line when they face the Panthers in a heavyweight bout in sweltering conditions in Sydney’s west for the World Club Challenge title.
“We’ve come here to win. We haven’t come all the way out here for any other reason, but at the same time, we know the challenge is huge,” St Helens coach Paul Wellens said.
“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. For this team to win four in a row … there’s no group more deserving of the opportunity to come out here and test themselves against a side like Penrith.”
The Saints have dominated the Super League with four-straight titles, but they’ve got one more mountain to conquer against the two-time defending NRL champions who have been on another level since the Covid break.
St Helens lost at home to the Roosters the last time the World Club Challenge was held in 2020, with only one English club getting the job done in the past 10 years.
James Roby brings more than 500 games of experience – including World Club Challenge appearances in 2007, 2015 and 2020 – and he says this team is ready to conquer Everest in what shapes as their final frontier.
“You could look it like that because this is another level that we have to go to,” he told NCA NewsWire.
“Because of Covid we haven’t had the opportunity to play in this game, so we haven’t had a chance since 2020 when we lost to show the world what we can do.
“We’ve earned our reward again, so I think if we go out and play well against Penrith then it’ll be a fantastic achievement for the club and the town.
“Everyone probably expects the visiting team to come here as underdogs, and we’re fully aware of that, but our preparation has been good and our time in Australia has been good.
“We’re under no illusions how good this Penrith team is, especially with all their stars available, so we’re going to have to be at the top of our game if we are to match them.
“It’s been a long time coming. Winning four in a row takes a lot of effort over a long period of time.
“Penrith have done it back-to-back as well, so that will add to the occasion and add some spice to it as well. We rate them as highly as anyone we’ve ever played.”
Roby’s first World Club Challenge was 16 years ago in a side featuring Matt Gidley as well as his current coach as the Saints knocked off the Broncos in Bolton.
Rugby league has changed considerably since then but the one constant has been the 37-year-old who is gearing up for his 20th season with the Saints.
His guile out of dummy-half has allowed him to dominate for so long, and NRL fans could’ve seen a lot more of him if the timing had been right.
“I’ve had a couple of chances to come here over the past few years, but for various reasons it’s never worked out,” he said.
“I’m too old for anyone to show any interest.
“Whenever I had the chance to come here, the money wasn’t too different to what I was being offered back home. But now with the strength of the NRL and the salary cap going up and up and up, the money is vastly different and would have been a motivating factor.
“I don’t regret not coming because I enjoy where I’m living and I enjoy where I’m from, but after my playing career I might consider coming here in another capacity.”
Story Credit: news.com.au