Lance Hohaia Column: Snow, Wellens and longevity

World Cup winner Lance Hohaia, now in his second year in Super League with St Helens, has joined the Love Rugby League team as a regular columnist.

The snowy conditions were the main talking point last weekend, and I’m surprised our game against Salford went ahead.

It’s not something I’m used to, we never get it in New Zealand, and it was strange watching from the sidelines in those conditions.

I picked up a groin strain the day before the game, which kept me out, but I got a bit of lip from the boys who said I must have checked the weather forecast beforehand!

Those who did play did everything they could, and did well considering the injuries we’ve got, and some young lads came in for their debuts, and they went well.

The snow does affect us – all the pitches are covered, and then there’s players who can’t get in to training because they’re snowed in, so it affects our training schedule. We’ve had a few alternative sessions, but it’s just part and parcel of what we do – the training staff are well prepared.

That all comes ahead of the busy Easter weekend, which isn’t ideal from a players point of view, but we understand the need for it, and just have to get on with things and deal with it.

It’s part and parcel of the game over here, it’s traditional and we just have to play the best we can. I’ve doubled up after internationals back home, and then there’s the players who play State of Origin in the week and then play for their NRL club a few days later.

I read an article earlier this week where Brian McDermott was saying how sport science has improved so drastically over the past 10-20 years, and how so much work goes in to managing the players recovery after a game.

Our first game of the weekend is the much anticipated derby against Wigan, which is always a tough one. There’s a lot of emotion attached to it, and it means a lot to the people of both towns. It puts a lot of pressure on for the players, who know that we aren’t just winning for us, but for everyone.

We’ve got some injuries in key positions, but we’re confident we can do well.

There’s been a lot of talk about where Paul Wellens will play. Wello is a complete professional, and he’ll turn out wherever he is asked. It’s not an easy situation for him, as he probably would prefer to play full-back, but he knows Jonny (Lomax) playing there is best for the team.

He’ll just be preparing for whatever job he is told to do. He’s trained in a few different positions, so whether he plays at full back, in the halves or at loose forward, he’ll do a job and do the team proud, and that’s all you want as a coach or as a team-mate.

With the weather and the busy Easter period, there have been some calls for a reduced league and less games. Anything that helps to preserve the game and help player welfare is good, but it’s different for clubs and organisations who need to generate income.

It might be more beneficial to have a shorter season, improve competitiveness and ultimately help players have longer careers, which would be good for the game and player welfare. It’s something that might be looked at, but not sure it will happen any time soon.

Speaking of longetivity, Steve Menzies is still going strong at Catalan at the age of 39. He was one of the top performers in the NRL when I played there, and it’s a pretty outstanding achievement.

It’s astonishing that he’s still performing at the level he is, he must look after himself very well and have a bit of luck with injuries, which you need in rugby league. To go 21 years as a professional is unheard of.

And so we look ahead to the weekend. The derbies are always great games and great spectacles, they are the games you want to play in, and test yourself against the best.

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