Jon Wilkin says people he “trusted and respected” made him “sick” with their World Club Challenge predictions

On Saturday, St Helens stunned NRL Champions Penrith Panthers to win the World Club Challenge in their own backyard.

It is a huge win for British rugby league especially after the Saints were well and truly written off with the likes of Phil Gould saying Penrith “would be able to declare at halftime.”

Now one of St Helens’ former players Jon Wilkin has spoken about how big the win is for England and St Helens.

“It’s hard to put into words the magnitude of this victory. For the people who don’t know, the NRL is the premiere rugby league competition in the world, it has infinite resources and is very similar to the Premier League and how it’s viewed in this country in football terms,” he told Sky Sports.

“So, for a small industrial town famous for glass to go over to Australia and beat Penrith Panthers, the champions from that competition, is remarkable.

“It’s remarkable for more reasons than just a northern town going over and competing against the best in the world, it’s remarkable because these two teams have been the best teams in their competitions for the past few years.

“To go out there and win, and not just win, there’s winning and then there was a method in the way they won; it was gritty, and it was such a robust and strong performance on the biggest stage. I’m not embarrassed to admit a little tear came to my eye out of pride watching them lift that trophy.”

He went on to say that people he trust and respect in the sport disappointed him with their World Club Challenge predictions:

“I was so tired of listening to everybody around me telling me that St Helens couldn’t win, people who I trust and respect within the sport. A lot of my fellow pundits at Sky were telling me that St Helens couldn’t win and I just knew how tough this St Helens team are. I thought it was going to be a close game, I didn’t envisage it as close as it was.

“There’s a couple of things to consider, in terms of participation rugby league in Australia is huge, lots of kids want to play rugby league so they get the pick of the athletes. We don’t have that in this country, so when you don’t have the pick of the athletes, what you can do is get your attitude right and be organised and I think that’s what St Helens have done in Super League for the last four years. That’s why the game was so tight.

“One thing that’s always been the case is that we’re like the underdogs to Australia. We’re really paranoid about not being taken seriously by the game or the authorities in Australia, because it leads the way. Every time something like this happens it does start to change the mentality of people across the world.

“The World Club Challenge and the opening fixtures that we’ve seen could pave the way for what could be be an incredible 2023. I’m really cynical but I’m optimistic this year about things being different, and the World Club Challenge is just a really positive push into this new season which I’m delighted to be involved with.”

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