In just under a month, the rugby league world will be focusing on the North West of England as Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves fight for Super League in the World Club Series. Warrington host Brisbane in the warm-up to the World Club Challenge 24 hours when reigning Super League champions Wigan Warriors take on NRL champions Cronulla Sharks.
In the previous two seasons the Super League sides have been beaten in four friendlies and two finals, meaning it currently stands at 6-0 to the NRL sides, this could probably explain the lack of interest from the Aussies for this year’s competition as they have only sent over two teams instead of three. For Cronulla there is an interest as they aim to win their first ever World Club title, but for the other NRL sides it’s clear they don’t want to travel to the other side of the world for a meaningless friendly.
Does this year’s series have a big impact on the future? Should we all be hoping for the two English clubs to prevail to stake an argument to continue the series in the future? Personally, I have supported all the English sides in the past two seasons and I do believe this year is more important than ever to get a couple of wins for the Super league competitors. We do need to show that the Super League is competitive and can contain the NRL sides, both this year’s English clubs have history in the competition so they’re not stepping into the unknown.
In 2016 our sides failed miserably as St Helens opened the series with a 38-12 defeat to Sydney Roosters, Wigan couldn’t match Brisbane like the previous year and sank to a 42-12 defeat whilst in the big occasion, our most successful Super League side the Leeds Rhinos started their poor season slumping to a 38-4 World Club Challenge defeat. The inaugural 2015 series was a better match from the English sides when Warrington opened with a 18-12 defeat to St George, Wigan took Brisbane to extra-time before a Corey Parker penalty sealed victory by 14 points to 12. However, St Helens failed to register a single point at home to South Sydney in the final, losing 38-0.
So, is 2017 the year the Super League can retain some credibility or does it kill the series off? I think a major factor in Brisbane coming over is Wayne Bennett, the current England RL head coach. If he didn’t back a series where some of our young and current squad players come up against the best Australian sides it would show that he didn’t have the bigger picture for England Rugby League in mind. 2017 must be the year we register wins in this comp, we should show that this country can compete, we need to start the year with some national pride ahead of the World Cup in the winter. A Super League series win would be the perfect start to preparations for going down under, a confidence booster and some inspiration for the squad that will go down under.
Can Warrington make it 6-1? They let themselves down in 2015 when they were beaten by a poor St George side at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, but after they turned the corner again in 2016 to start challenging again for honours, this will be a nice reward for the club to show they can be successful in 2017. Warrington reached both major finals whilst also claiming the League Leader’s Shield last term so they will be looking to improve on that and what a statement they could make by beating Brisbane, something Wigan have failed in the past two series. It’s another big year ahead for the Wolves and I can see them taking the spoils against Brisbane, especially at home where they only lost four times last season in 15 games. This game could also have a family feel as Brisbane have just announced the signing of Korbin Sims, brother of Warrington’s Ashton.
Wigan are amongst the most successful sides in the competition with three titles overall and I can see them making it four at the DW Stadium in February. They have played Brisbane in the previous two and failed to register a win but this is for a genuine title, a piece a silverware and we all know that Shaun Wane can get his team over the line when that is at stake. Cronulla have had an off-season, blighted with media coverage of a few of their stars and not in the best light, Wigan however have been put through their paces by Wane so will be prepared to the max. Wigan make it difficult for any team visiting their home, I think this is the game where the English side will certainly prevail.
Should we support Wigan and Warrington?
Absolutely, national pride! All English fans I believe should want their countries side to beat the Australians. I would love it if the two clubs from the North west could win 2-0. We need a strong series this year to prove to the world that the English sides can compete. So, I would like to see the nation of rugby league fanatics get behind Tony Smith and Shaun Wane’s men. Let’s beat the Aussies and have some early 2017 bragging rights over them!