Written by John Davidson
Image by NRL
It’s often been claimed that some NRL clubs don’t take the World Club Challenge seriously.
Some don’t want to travel to the UK to play it, like Melbourne last year. Some use it as a glorifed holiday, like Cronulla the year before. Every year there seems to be a constant debate and discussion about whether the match will actually even be played.
Trent Robinson, and the Roosters, are not one of those clubs that treat the World Club Challenge as an afterthought. Robinson is one of the greatest internationalists in the Australian game, someone who played in France and coached in Super League.
The 41-year-old’s team arrive in the UK this week to face Wigan on February 17. Robinson is someone who wants to see the World Club Challenge treated properly and given the adequate respect it deserves.
“That’s one thing in our game; it’s been played for 20 years and every year we have a discussion over whether it’s going to be played,” he said.
“I think something could be arranged between the federations to make it compulsory, but we always want to do it. Having a bit more structure about the November conversations that happen every year would be good.
“If you love the game of league then you’re going to respect it on all levels. It’s like with the trip to France coming up, I know there’s lots of discussion over here and I have huge respect for Super League.
“It gave me a start as a coach but the Roosters have a really strong history in our sport, we’re one of the foundation clubs, so every time you pull the jersey on, you’ve got to do it proud. Whether it’s been 2003, 2014, 2016 or now – or even 1976, the first-ever World Club Challenge, which we started with St Helens – it’s in our DNA.”
Robinson’s attitude is one shared by his skipper and his veteran halfback. Boyd Cordner played in the World Club Challenge in 2014, against Wigan on home soil, and has sampled English conditions both for his club and country.
Like his coach, the Roosters captain is a big advocate of the annual meeting between the NRL and Super League champions.
“I was fortunate enough to play in that game when Wigan came over here,” Cordner said.
“It was a great night; I can remember that after such a hard season back in the NRL, you get rewarded for playing the World Club Challenge against the best English side in the world, so I can remember it being a great experience and something I remember fondly.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in England a couple of times, and the atmosphere is unbelievable. The grounds aren’t the biggest but it doesn’t seem like that with the atmosphere that’s created.
“Especially playing against a side like Wigan, who have such a rich history in rugby league, to go to a town like that will be great for the Roosters to experience. For me personally, I know all the guys here have been ripping into pre-season pretty hard and to go and get a chance to be the best in the world, that’s why you play in the NRL.
“To go and play the best in the Super League is huge and for me, I can remember in 2014 I was just as pumped to play that as a Grand Final or a State of Origin.”
Few players have experienced more World Club Challenges than Cooper Cronk. With the Storm Cronk was victorious against Leeds in England in 2008, 2010 and in 2013. Now the playmaker is going for World Club Challenge victory number four in the northern hemisphere.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play lots of football in the north of England, and it’s another chance to be part of folklore over there with all the heritage and history,” Cronk admits.
“I absolutely love playing in the World Club Challenge. Our job is to inspire the next generation of players. It’s a real blessing.
“It’s an atmosphere and an experience we don’t get over here [in Australia]. You can be fazed and intimidated or you can really soak it up and enjoy it, and that’s what I’ve done in my previous experiences.
“I love the fact the temperature is around zero and whether the fans are cheering or booing, that’s cool too because the close proximity of fans is something you don’t get over here. It doesn’t change whether you’re playing at the Allianz Stadium or the DW Stadium, the rules are still the same – but you’ve got to make sure you do the little things right which create a good performance.”
“At the end of the day, there’s a title up for grabs, to be named world champions.”