Tough. Brutal. Engaging. St Helens made history with their thrilling golden point extra-time win over Penrith on Saturday.
This is exactly what you wanted when the best team in Super League faces the best team in the NRL. It was a high-intensity, high-octane showdown that went down to the last seconds, and then on to extra-time.
There should no doubt now about the value of the World Club Challenge. It is a fantastic concept with a long history, dating all the way back to 1976.
Anyone who watched the game, whether it was on English shores or Aussie soil, would have enjoyed this fixture. St Helens gave it everything, and showed their class, against a great Panthers outfit who fought back but couldn’t edge past the super Saints in the end.
Awesome skill, terrific defence, big hits, tension and a tight finish – it had it all.
This was much better than a pre-season game, trial match or a even regular season match in either the NRL or Super League. It had real intensity, real value.
It needs to be played every year.
Sadly, this is the first World Club Challenge since 2020.
But after that thrilling contest in western Sydney, it needs to be pencilled in for February in 2024, and for every year after that.
The powerbrokers in the UK and Australasia need to get together now and ensure we have it locked into rugby league’s calendar.
We need to capitalise on the success of the concept and the attraction it brings.
Instead of organising it at the last minute, get it organised and secure a host.
Maybe take it to a new stadium or city? A different country?
Catalans and Wigan played at Barcelona’s Camp Nou a few years ago in front of a record crowd. What about a World Club Challenge event in Barca next year, with a double-header where the Dragons also face an NRL side (if they don’t win Super League)?
Or take it to Paris and play a double-header at the Stade de France?
With a Rugby League World Cup in France in 2025, it would be a great lead-up to the tournament.
Or look to Dubai, Singapore or Hong Kong. Get some government funding from these countries and give the World Club Challenge the proper billing and stage it deserves. Fans from the clubs involved would surely travel to such exotic destinations.
The World Club Challenge needs to be a key part of the sport’s annual calendar, not an afterthought.
The players deserve it, and the fans do too.