Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Since 1976 Australia and the UK’s premier Rugby League competitions have come together for the World Club Challenge.
In what could be seen as our game’s equivalent to the Super Bowl the champions from the NRL and Super League meet yearly in a one-off game to determine the world champions of club Rugby League.
The game has often taken place in the United Kingdom due to the Super League season commencing earlier than the NRL and for many years the Australian clubs have received the best possible hospitality from the Rugby Football League.
However, things changed this year as Super League Champions St Helens were invited to participate in the NRL’s preseason challenge with their World Club Challenge match against the Penrith Panthers to be included in the tournament.
St Helens accepted the invitation and have been in Australia since earlier February but according to The Daily Telegraph’s Phil “Buzz” Rothfield they have not received the same treatment that they have given NRL clubs in the past.
“English champions St Helens have been in Sydney for a week to prepare for the World Club Challenge against the Penrith Panthers,” said Rothfield.
“They have still not heard from Andrew Abdo or anyone from NRL senior management.
“No welcoming function, not even a phone call.
“This is the exact opposite to the wonderful hospitality afforded to NRL clubs when they are on tour in England.”
While it is sad to hear of the non-existent welcome that St Helens have received it hasn’t impacted their form as the Saints defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons last weekend and currently sit in sixth place on the NRL’s pre-season challenge ladder.
On Saturday night they will not only have the chance to become World Club Champions on Australian soil but could win an NRL run tournament if they finish at the top of the pre-season challenge table which would then see them receive $100,000 in prize money.
Their opponents this Saturday night the Panthers also won last weekend and currently sit in seventh place on the ladder for the preseason challenge, although their side in the win over Parramatta was made up mostly of non-first-grade talent.
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