World Club Series – Super League shows its worth!

Widnes Vikings 26-28 Wigan Warriors

So, a month ago, I wrote about how this year’s World Club Series would impact the potential future of the event and how we needed to get behind Super League. A few days after both English sides overcame their Australian counterparts and I am still buzzing with national pride!

The same old excuses?

So, minutes after Warrington beat Brisbane the excuses came out on social media that the concept is unfair on the NRL sides who are still in pre-season. Well I’m not going to fully buy that and I don’t want the efforts of our clubs put down by this. Warrington and Wigan have both suffered defeats in recent pre-season matches, in fact Warrington were nilled at home against Huddersfield just 17 days before beating Brisbane! Round one saw the Wolves travel to Perpignan and put a real lacklustre performance in while Wigan had lots of questions to answer themselves after a mixed performance at Salford. On the back of that you would say our sides were hardly in a rich vein of form or hitting it out on all cylinders. The NRL sides won 3-0 last year and they weren’t banging on about the timing of the event then.

I am not in the camp that says it should be two weeks after the respective Grand Finals because for me that’s a special time of year for the winners. Take Cronulla for example, last year was their first ever premiership after a painful 50-year wait. Their players were celebrating for two weeks with tours of the trophy and, of course, Mad Monday. If they knew they had to come over to Wigan a week later you can bet they would have been training and preparing for the World Club Challenge rather than being able to let their hair down and celebrate their historic achievement. I do believe we could tweak the event, but let’s allow the champions to celebrate long into the month of October, it’s an amazing achievement to perform at the levels required for the season and on the respective nights of the Grand Finals.

Contrasting Styles

So, after 2016, fans in England were wondering how the Super League clubs could beat the NRL sides. Well I think Warrington and Wigan stuck to their style’s and defended as tenaciously as they often do. Tony Smith’s side set a platform in the warm-up game with some fast-flowing rugby league, looking to score on multiple plays while throwing the ball about to get over the advantage line. Wigan did the same with their fast-paced start. The Warriors had a tough battle and did well to stay composed because at one point they were being bullied in and around the ruck which is a very rare thing to happen to Shaun Wane’s side. The NRL teams set out much more structures, five drives and a kick, but our Super League lads showed that you can take a few drives and then go out wide, throwing the ball about to create space, producing a real exciting brand of rugby league.

The Future

Well straight after the defeat Cronulla head coach Shane Flanagan said he would love to bring the Sharks back over in 2018. We know the Broncos love coming over here and so maybe this year’s 2-0 defeat will bring the Aussies back over. If Warrington had lost, I do think we would have struggled to get the Australian sides over as many don’t value the trip than anything more than a friendly. Let’s be honest though, what would the players prefer – playing in a trial back home in front of a low crowd or coming to England to play in a cauldron of noise and at high intensity? The concept also allows young players to showcase themselves on tour and see parts of the world they may not get a chance to later in life. The clubs get to expand their fan base and advertise themselves in a rugby league hotbed. Next year I do believe we will see the return of the three-game weekend and hopefully we can get our fifth win the World Club Challenge and be one defeat behind in the series.

2017 England’s year?

Well what better year to take a 2-0 win in the series? We will see England and the home nations go over to Australia in October to take part in the World Cup and what confidence they can have going there knowing we haven’t seen an Australian win this year against English opposition. Could the players have shown Wayne Bennett they are capable after last weekend? Man of the Match in both games were English half-backs in George Williams and Kevin Brown, could young Declan Patton have shown Wayne enough to earn a fighting chance to be in the squad? Our forward packs didn’t get overrun and even if the Sharks were bullying Wigan for the first quarter, I thought the Warriors kept well composed and gave a good account of themselves in the muscle department. Ultimately, this was the biggest confidence boost our game, national team and players could have got at the start of the World Cup year.

Summary

Warrington and Wigan did our game proud. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend as Super League fans I was fully supporting both sides in their quest to overcome the Australians and they did everything we could have hoped and wished for. Let’s not think about the excuses or belittle two monumental efforts and applaud our countries stars. I think for once the Super League sides went all out, we kept to our roots and the NRL sides couldn’t handle our style. The future looks bright for our game and like Kevin Brown said after Wire’s win – he picked up a rugby ball after watching Wigan defeat Brisbane so let’s hope some young kids are out there now looking to get into rugby league after we dispatched the Australians. What a great time for Super League. A massive well done to Warrington and congratulations to Wigan Warriors who have now won a record four World Club titles!

*Pictures SWpix.com

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