Leeds Rhinos interim head coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan says that the current St Helens side are one of the best teams of in the Super League era.
The two clubs, currently at opposite ends of the table, meet at Headingley on Friday night.
Champions Saints sit top while coach-less Leeds are currently staring down the barrel of the relegation places.
In his own playing career, Jones-Buchanan formed part of the Rhinos’ ‘golden generation’, whose back-to-back-to-back Grand Final wins were matched last year by Saints’ third in a row.
Now, with the Red Vee going for a standalone fourth consecutive Grand Final win, Jones-Buchanan praised Kristian Woolf’s side.
“At the minute, you have this sort of tier where Saints are above the general tier of Super League.
“But you can only play the cards that you’ve been dealt; and ultimately, history is judged on the medals that you’ve got in your cabinet and the names written down on the trophies.
“St Helens have had their name written on plenty of Super League trophies over the last few years with Challenge Cup success to match. They’ve deserved it and ultimately, that’s all that matters, so huge credit to them.
“I’d love to lift them up and put them back into the early noughties around the 2006 to 2009 era. The best team that I ever played against was that 2006 St Helens side, they were phenomenal. You’d go there knowing exactly what they were going to do but just seemed powerless to stop it; you’d be 18-0 down against them after eight minutes.
“Not underplaying the Saints team of today by any means but there were some other formidable teams within the league at that time like Bradford Bulls, Wigan Warriors and even Leeds on their day.”
The next St Helens generation
Praise for Woolf’s side didn’t stop there from the man in temporary charge of the Rhinos.
Himself a seven-time Grand Final, three-time World Club Challenge, three-time League Leaders’ Shield and one-time Challenge Cup winner with Leeds, Jones-Buchanan added: “We need to learn from some of their [St Helens’] succession.
“Some of their young boys now are like senior professionals. They’re young kids who’ve got loads of years left in them, but they’ve been passed down all that information, those behaviours, and those values.
“That’s why they continue to be successful as a club.
“And I’m sure that they will be for many years to come.”