Yesterday St Helens confirmed that they are unlikely to participate in Round One of the Betfred Super League in 2023 due to potential World Club Challenge commitments against Penrith Panthers on the opening weekend of the seasons: 18th-19th February.
This is why Huddersfield Giants don’t have a Round One fixture with the Saints set to be down under delaying the Champions’ Super League opener until Round Two as they take on Castleford Tigers away on Channel 4.
Meanwhile, the Champions’ first home game will be in Round Three as they meet Leeds Rhinos in a Grand Final rematch at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
That all said, St Helens may be much busier than they might have initially expected this pre-season in terms of potential games down under.
This is because the NRL is considering a new knockout tournament in pre-season.
The NRL is accustomed to such tournaments having had the nines tournament in the past.
However, a new 18-team tournament is being considered according to the Sydney Morning Herald which would be designed to boost the important of pre-season and attract bigger crowds and TV audiences.
It could even take place in 2023 with it being a chance for the NRL’s newest club The Dolphins under former St Helens boss Kristian Woolf to get a taste for the NRL.
Meanwhile, St Helens themselves would be invited to make it an 18-team competition and give the Super League Champions a concrete chance to truly prove they hang with the best in the NRL – it could also be an ideal pre-season as they look to retain their Super League crown and win it for a fifth year in a row.
There are plenty of stumbling blocks still such as the fact the NRL is expected to 27 Round, the World Club Challenge itself, the end of the World Cup delaying player returns and the NRL’s ambition to have a Round Zero game in America.
However, this tournament is on the cards and St Helens will be asked to participate if it is green lit.