The Liam Farrell column: ‘We’re world champions, but not unbeatable’

Liam Farrell in World Club Challenge action
Liam Farrell in World Club Challenge action
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To know we’ve cemented our place in history is pretty special.

It was a different kind of feeling to the Challenge Cup and Grand Final wins.

With 20 minutes to go I said to John Bateman, ‘I’m struggling here’

The World Club Challenge was one I wanted to tick off my list - I’d had two attempts beforehand - and there are other lads who were having their first crack at it, and they’ve won it.

Because we’ve never experienced it before, it feels unique.

It may be a once-in-a-career opportunity - it was something I’ll not forget.

The day before the game, Waney brought in some of the players from the ‘87 World Club Challenge.

They spoke to us and we watched a highlights video of the game, and I really enjoyed it. I’d heard stories of the game, but I hadn’t seen any footage and it was great to see.

But the best part, for me, was just listening to the way they talk to each other - years after some had seen each other - and the way they interacted, the way the banter came back, and the way they were reliving some memories... you could tell the game obviously meant a lot to them, and it hit home that we had a great chance to do the same.

So I left training really excited about the opportunity we had.

That night, I sat down to watch Warrington’s World Club Series game with Brisbane. Warrington were outstanding, particularly in the first-half. It looked like Kev Brown had an influence on them and I was cheering them on all the way. I was made up for them.

Their win didn’t change my mindset, I always felt we could beat Cronulla, but perhaps if anyone had any self-doubt, then Warrington’s game may have given them a little bit more confidence.

But then maybe it hit home to Cronulla, too, that they were going to be in for a game.

It certainly looked like they took a relaxed approach in the build-up, and their coach came out and said it didn’t mean as much to them. Well, he may have just been honest, but if that’s the case we want to get to a point where it is as important to them as us, and we want it to be as special to them as it was to us.

It was a very physical game.

At half-time, I was shocked when Waney said our completion was only 50 per cent. In any circumstances we’d think a 50 per cent completion was poor, so to be in front 10-0 against an NRL team was a testament to our defence.

But all the extra defending took it out of us.

John Bateman and I both knew we would be playing the full game, and I remember looking up at the clock and seeing there was 20 minutes to go, and I said to John, ‘I’m struggling here’. I hadn’t been as tired in a long time. But I thought of what was at stake and just kept on going.

Even at 16-6, it was pretty late on before I felt like we had the game wrapped-up, because they’ve got the quality to score back-to-back tries. I couldn’t really relax until Budgie went over for his hat-trick try, that’s when I knew it was won.

The dressing room was packed afterwards. Waney brought in the ‘87 players and our families, and it was great to share the moment with them. And then afterwards, Waney said he wanted us to party like they partied - and we did a pretty good job of it!

It felt like the end of season, and we’re only two games in!

It’s hard, being involved in the game, to look at the bigger picture. But I said in the build-up that there isn’t much difference in the quality of players - they have some world-class players, but so do we - and I hope that was proved from the two World Club results.

Two wins for Super League makes us look better than they maybe thought we were.

Now it’s over to the NRL to see what they want to do with the World Club, and whether we go back to three games, or it stays as two, or it’s cut back to just a World Club Challenge. We’ll have to see.

We’re very happy to play in the tournament, but we need the NRL clubs to buy into it as well.

Our focus has now turned to the game against Widnes, and the best way to look at it is that we’ve won a World Club Challenge but we’re not unbeatable. There will be no big-heads. Waney will be making sure we do the tough stuff, and all the little things which made us World Club Challenge winners in the first place.