But as we catch up with the players at their training ground at Cowley International College, the mood in the camp is far from nervous with St Helens coach Royce Simmons saying ‘the St Helens players believe in themselves so much they expect to win.’
It seems this year’s Super League has been a special one for a number of St Helens players and coaches, with veteran Paul Wellens scoring the 200th try of his career in the latest game against Wigan, captain James Graham hoping for the perfect send-off before his move to Canterbury Bulldogs next season and rising stars like Jamie Foster coming through the St Helens ranks and rightfully taking their place in the first team.
But behind the scenes, how have the Saints been preparing for what could prove to be a very memorable climax to the season, both for the players and for coach Royce Simmons during his first season at the helm? We caught up with the team as they prepare for Saturday’s final to find out.
Team camaraderie is high and Jamie Foster believes it has a lot to do with the momentum they’ve gathered since their semi-final Challenge Cup defeat to Wigan saying, ‘we’ve turned things around and our mind set is really strong. I think we’ll be a force to be reckoned with now.’ Foster adds “I’m very privileged to play for a fantastic team like St Helens… when I’m sitting there in the changing room before we go out, I’m looking around at fantastic players that I’ve looked up to for a lot of years.”
Echoing the team spirit mentioned by Foster, Paul Wellens specifically talks about James Graham saying “he’s a great player and a great lad and I’ve really enjoyed playing with him. You miss quality players when they move on. James Graham is one of – if not the – best front rower in the world of rugby league at the moment.
“I think his performance on Saturday night against Wigan was just full of everything. He seemed to cover every blade of grass on the field and another performance like that from him this weekend wouldn’t go amiss.”
Head of strength and conditioning, Matt Daniels, says “If I had to single anything out as being ‘key’ to success it would be the team spirit and the fact that we have a group of players who are good mates and have been focused and driven on achieving a common goal of being successful.
“It’s been a long hard season, but with the help of sponsors like Nutrition Partners Myprotein.com we have been able to keep the players fit and healthy. It’s fantastic to be working with Myprotein.com and they were our first choice in the search for a new sports nutrition partner.
“They’ve been leading the way in the sports nutrition market over the past couple of years, and the MP formulas such as Hurricane XS and Recovery XS are exactly what I needed for the players to help their performance on the pitch and their recovery off the pitch.”