How St Helens can win the NRL pre-season challenge

James Gordon
St Helens prepare for World Club Challenge and NRL pre-season challenge

Picture by Tom Maguire/St Helens via

They might be Down Under to be crowned world champions, but there’s another prize up for grabs for St Helens.

The four-time Super League champions have a chance of scooping $100,000 prize money (c£57k) in the NRL pre-season challenge.

The World Club Challenge match between Saints and Penrith Panthers, plus their game this weekend against St George-Illawarra Dragons, will be part of the challenge.

What is the NRL pre-season challenge?

All 17 NRL clubs, including new boys Dolphins, feature and play a game each across the two game weeks.

A new points system is in force for the pre-season challenge where teams earn 12 points for a win, 6 points for a draw and 0 for a loss.

But even in defeat, teams can earn bonus points for scoring five or more tries, making five or more line breaks, or executing 10 or more offloads. That means in a win, a team could earn as many as 15 points.

It’s part of a trial to encourage attacking play. Clubs will still be permitted to use up to 28 players in week one and 26 in week two, with unlimited interchanges at their disposal. There will be no golden point, so games level at the end of 80 minutes will be declared a draw, a rarity Down Under.

The only exception is of course the World Club Challenge between Penrith and St Helens, which will be played to the standard 17-man squads, with an 18th man available if a team loses two or more players to a failed HIA.

They will be limited to 10 interchanges each and there will be golden point extra time to decide the winner if the scores are tied.

It would be a huge upset if St Helens manage it, but you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Saints have been preparing for their two games by training at the Manly Sea Eagles facility in Narrabeen at the Sydney academy of sport.

Coach Paul Wellens and captain James Roby joined the Super League media launch by video call on Thursday.

MORE: St Helens v St George Illawarra: Squad news, TV coverage & predictions

NRL pre-season challenge fixtures

Week 1:

  • New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers (Thurs 9th, 7am)
  • Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks (Fri 10th, 7am)
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles (Fri 10th, 9am)
  • Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels (Sat 11th, 7am)
  • St George-Illawarra Dragons v St Helens (Sat 11th, 9am)
  • Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters (Sun 12th, 2.50am)
  • Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs (Sun 12th, 4.55am)
  • North Queensland Cowboys v Dolphins (Sun 12th, 7am)
  • Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans (Sun 12th, 9am)

Week 2:

  • Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels (Fri 17th, 6.55am)
  • Sydney Roosters v Manly Sea Eagles (Fri 17th, 9am)
  • St George-Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs (Sat 18th, 4.30am)
  • Penrith Panthers v St Helens (Sat 18th, 7am)
  • Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys (Sat 18th, 9am)
  • New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm (Sun 19th, 1.50am)
  • Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders (Sun 19th, 3.55am)
  • Canterbury Bulldogs v Cronulla Sharks (Sun 19th, 6am)
  • Dolphins v Gold Coast Titans (Sun 19th, 8.05am)

Points system:

  • Win – 12 points
  • Draw – 6 points
  • 5 or more tries – 1 point
  • 5 or more line breaks – 1 point
  • 10 or more offloads – 1 point

TV coverage

All of the NRL pre-season challenge games are being broadcast live on Sky Sports, and on Watch NRL.

New Zealand Warriors got the challenge off to a fine start with a 48-12 victory over Wests Tigers. That earned them 12 points for a win, plus two bonus points.

Manly beat Souths 30-28 in a thriller, after Cronulla Sharks had beaten Newcastle Knights 28-16.

The widening gulf between the NRL and Super League was further highlighted by the fact the pre-season challenge games were being televised.

They all featured the video referee too, despite only being a pre-season challenge.

Super League of course only has the video referee in televised matches, usually limited to at most three per weekend.

The new Super League season kicks off on February 16 live on Sky Sports, when Warrington host Leeds, while Leigh’s return against Salford is also live on February 17.

Hull KR’s opener against Wigan on Saturday February 18 is being broadcast live on Channel 4, who are also showing the World Club Challenge.