Kristian Woolf responds to NRL speculation with upcoming World Cup

Josh McAllister
Kristian Woolf

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf has responded to reports Down Under about the World Cup being a ’shop window’ for Super League players.

A report in Australia suggested that Super League’s best players could see themselves with attention from the NRL with this year’s World Cup.

For St Helens, trio Alex Walmsley, Regan Grace and Morgan Knowles were named to be targets for NRL clubs.

Hull’s Jake Connor was another on the list, as well as young prospect Will Pryce.

However, Woolf welcomes the praise for his top players and has rubbished the reports.

Kristian Woolf responds to NRL speculation on St Helens trio

“It’s a privilege,” Woolf said when asked about the speculation.

“When you’ve got players who play to their potential and such a good group of players in what we’ve got, you’d expect there to be interest elsewhere. 

“You’d expect there to be interest across other Super League clubs and certainly in the NRL as well. 

“To the three guys that you mentioned; they have very recently signed new contracts until 2024 and 2025. 

“I mean, clubs can desire them all they want but at the end of the day, they’re not going to be going anywhere. 

“It’s a bit of a meaningless article really.”

St Helens news: Woolf provides update on Regan Grace

Woolf on building an environment to retain players

While discussing that some players will take the opportunity to go over to play in the NRL, Woolf admitted that clubs can do all they can to retain their top players.

The St Helens boss believes clubs can build an environment that players want to remain in rather than signing abroad.

“Obviously, there is some vulnerability there. There’s no doubt whatsoever,” Woolf said.

“I guess there’s a number of things you’ve got to look at there, but none more so than the fact that the salary cap differences are double for the same number of players. 

“That means that in terms of finances, clubs over there do have the ability to throw a lot more money at a high level player than what clubs over here tend to have. And that’s a simple fact.

“This club certainly lost plenty of players over the last few years for that reason. Obviously, there’s other reasons that come into it as well. But that’s a big part of the reasoning. 

“So there is a vulnerability there.”

Woolf on building attractive environments

He continued: “Whether the interest from the NRL is increasing, I’m not quite sure. 

“I’ve been here for over two years now. It’s been pretty constant in that time I think. I don’t think it’s necessarily increased or decreased. But interest has always been there for your top line players. 

“Plenty have gone over and come back, George Williams and guys like that, which I think is natural. I think it’s going to continue to happen. 

“All I think we can worry about over here is how we make sure that we’ve got the absolute best product that we can possibly have. 

“I know in our club, we do a great job in terms of what we provide for the players, how we look after the players here and how we develop our players.

“If we do lose players; our latest was Luke Thompson who at the time was certainly in the top mix of players in the world in his position. But because of what we do with our academy system, because of how we develop players from within first, we’ve been able to fill that void with guys like Matty Lees and not change in terms of the standards that we hold as a team and the success we have on the back of that. 

“I think we control what we can can control. If your environment is really good, if you’re providing what the players want and what they feel they need out of their sporting careers, then there’s no reason for them to leave. 

“Again, some will, but we certainly can’t sit here worrying about that. We look after ourselves, provide a good environment and a lot will stay.”

READ MORE: Luke Gale set for lengthy ban after two charges

PLAY: Our free Fantasy Rugby League!