Sculthorpe confident St Helens’ new generation can be world champions

St Helens legend Paul Sculthorpe thinks that his former club have every chance of taking home the World Club Challenge trophy after their clash with NRL champions South Sydney this weekend.

Sculthorpe, who won the World Club Challenge as a player with Saints in 2007, when they beat Brisbane Broncos, feels that Super League‘s earlier start will mean that the home team’s players are sharper than the visitors.

“We’ll be a bit less rusty and hopefully in top form,” he said.

“I’m confident, we’ve always done well in the World Club Challenge, have the English sides, and it’ll be interesting over the three games seeing the scores.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the World Club Challenge, and I thought it always brought the best out of me as well as a player.

“It was fantastic, that’s the pinnacle, obviously you want to test yourself against the best, at international or club level.”

A passionate home crowd could also play a significant role in driving Saints to success, according to Sculthorpe.

“It’s a complete sell-out, and we’re taking hospitality on the road to St Helens College, too, there’s that much demand,” he added.

“It’s going to be a great night, and hopefully the result follows.

“I’ve always said that there’s not a lot of difference in between the NRL teams and the English teams.

“Where it is is that they have more strength over the whole league.

“We’ve got three of our top sides against three of theirs, and we’ll see where we’re at.”

Career Pinnacle

The former Great Britain star is also in no doubt that the NRL sides will be taking the concept every bit as seriously as the Super League teams.

“If anyone questions it, go back to 2007 and watch Darren Lockyer, when he was sat in the dressing rooms afterwards, and tell me he didn’t want it,” he said.

“Players like Darren Lockyer, in 2001 Gordon Tallis. Players of that ilk don’t want to not win games, underperform or not take it seriously.

“They want to win games that they play in, same as us. I don’t buy into that bullshit.”

Sculthorpe will also be playing close attention to the other two games in the World Club Series.

Warrington open the series with their game against St George-Illawarra Dragons on Friday evening, before Wigan welcome Brisbane Broncos to the DW Stadium on Saturday.

“I’ll definitely be watching the other games,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a great spectacle for rugby league.

“We say it all the time that we’ve got the best game in the world, and it deserves more coverage.”

Saints New Hopes

When it comes to St Helens‘ chances of domestic success in 2015, Sculthorpe is in no doubt that Keiron Cunningham has a squad which looks awesomely strong, especially with new signings added to the mix.

“I do favour them for the silverware this year,” he said.

“I think that on the back of last year, and the injuries that they had, and the squad that they rolled with, I wouldn’t have envisaged them winning anything, let alone league leaders and Super League.

“But this year, Travis Burns will be massive for them, I think. He’s a genuine halfback. Hopefully Luke Walsh will keep fit and make a full recovery.

“I think those two playing together could make a real difference.

Atelea Vea – he looks sharp.

“The pack and the other younger guys are one year older now, and they’ve tasted success, and I think they’ll grow on the back of that.

Joe Greenwood, Luke Thompson, Greg Richards, these young guys know what it’s about now.

“It’s obviously a big test for Keiron Cunningham, but he’s been there and done it as well.

“It’s all positive coming out the dressing room. Sean Long‘s back, and he was a very intelligent player and a very good coach.

“I think it’ll be a big year for Saints.”

Keiron Cunningham may well be a rookie coach, but Sculthorpe is in no doubt that his former team-mate is more than capable of coping with the demands place on him by the role.

“Keiron’s never one who has put himself in the spotlight,” he said.

“He’s never really done a lot away from the game, in terms of mixing with people and mixing in other circles.

“So I thought that would be his biggest challenge – dealing with the media, and everything else.

“But he seems to have taken it in his stride. Knowing Keiron he’ll do what he has to do, regarding the media and what have you, but his number one priority will be working with the lads on the field.

“He knows what wins games. He’s done for it for a number of years, he played 500 odd games for Saints.

“He knows what’s required to win trophies.”

Club Dynasty

Sculthorpe was part of a generation which enjoyed much success over a long period of time with St Helens. He feels that another ‘golden’ generation, leaving a legacy of its own, could be imminent.

“It’s great, we’ve had that through our era of playing,” he said.

“We had the spine of the team, with Paul Wellens, Sean Long, Keiron, myself, Tommy Martyn.

“We’re all still involved at the club, and creating that culture.

“One guy I do feel sorry for is Paul Wellens, because he’s still doing the business on the field.

“There’s talk about when will he retire, but why? he’s still there. For me, Saints probably wouldn’t have won what they won last year without Paul.

“It’s not only what he does on the field, but his presence and his impact on the players away from the field too.

“He is an absolute legend. The world ‘legend’ gets bandied about, but he is an ultimate professional.

“He would walk into most teams. If I was coaching, I’d have to find a spot for him. And for me, that would have to be at full-back, because he’s an out-and-out full-back, and he’s outstanding.

“People go on about how he’s lost his pace, but he was never the quickest. He thinks quicker than everyone else, and was always putting himself in the right position.

“You saw the way he led from the front in the Grand Final.

“But times move on, and the club’s building for the future, and trying to build a new dynasty. These young kids who are in now, it’s up to them.”

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