WHEN I asked players a year ago if they would be supporting the other Super League clubs in the World Club Series, they said ‘yes’.
But some said it begrudgingly.
It was as if they felt compelled to say the right thing, maybe to avoid controversy, or a “Wigan star hopes St Helens gets stuffed” headline.
This year, I’ve asked the same questions and got the same answers – but there seems much more sincerity this time.
Because, having lost the series 3-0 a year ago (even with two close contests), they know Super League needs to redress the balance.
If it’s 6-0 after two years, two things will happen.
Firstly, Super League’s reputation will be further bruised by those who already think it is a poor relation of the NRL.
And secondly, the concept’s future will come under question.
Remember, the reason the expanded ‘97 series was a disaster wasn’t because the idea was bad... it was because the English teams did so badly!
For all its flaws (vague qualification criteria, awkward scheduling) this three-game series is better than what we’ve had in recent years, and I want it to continue.
I want it to grow. I want it to be taken Down Under.
But for that to happen, we need competitive games – and we need some Super League wins.
I’ve been brought up by good parents who told me never to cheer for those on the Dark Side of Billinge Hill, but I can put club allegiances aside this week.
As Saints prop Kyle Amor said, if St Helens fans can cheer for Sean O’Loughlin when he’s representing England, then why not when he’s representing Super League?
That same logic explained why many non-Leeds fans wanted Kevin Sinfield to do well in the Sports Personality last year.
It wasn’t about Leeds. It was about Super League.
You may disagree, and that’s fine. That’s sport.
But be careful what you wish for.
Last year, a colleague of mine wanted Souths to put St Helens to the sword... and when they duly did, he moaned that Saints had made Super League look like a laughing stock!
I’d love nothing more than a 3-0 whitewash this weekend – in Super League’s favour.
That way, the claims that ‘our best teams/players are as good as theirs’ will carry weight.
Of course, it’s going to be difficult for all three sides.
All are underdogs and all will need to find fifth gear... something they’ve not been able to do this year.
But their opponents are underdone, and have problems of their own – both the Roosters and Brisbane are without their starting scrum-half.
A win is not beyond any of them.
Remember, Wigan drew with Brisbane after 80 minutes last year, and they did so without Sean O’Loughlin and without two wins in the bank.
With that in mind, they seem better placed to win than they were 12 months ago.
And if they needed any further incentive, they have an early chance to impress the new England coach, Wayne Bennett.